Thank you Shanna Beattie, Evan Selby, and Daniel Chun for tackling such a wide range of possible answers for managing tannins!
This week: American History
Who is Thomas Volney Munson and what is his significance?
Munson was a horticulturalist who's work with American rootstocks, specifically native Texas rootstocks led to the development of phylloxera resistant cultivars. These cultivars paved the way for the adoption of resistant varieties in France and the subsequent triumph over the devastating phylloxera epidemic.
Thomas Volney Munson was an American horticulturist whose work with Native American Grapes in the mid to late 1800’s resulted in the use of American rootstock to mitigate the devastation to worldwide vineyards, especially in France, from the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century.
Originally, breeding for wine quality seems to have been the primary focus of his work with American Vitus varietals. However, his work with the taxonomy of American rootstocks had the greatest impact on viticulture. This work provided European grape growers with phylloxera-resistant root stocks, allowing them to recover from the devastating epidemic of the late 19th century while still growing the ancient Vitus vinifera cultivars.
The root stocks that Munson recommended to the French were Texas native Vitis Berlandieri (leading candidate), Cinerea and Cordifolia (Vulpina) grapes that were found in the Central Texas hill country at Dog Ridge in Bell County near Temple, Texas. The reason Munson specified both the type of Texas native grapes and the location is that he realized that the soils in this location closely match the limey soils in French vineyards and these grapes were highly tolerant of high pH limey soils. Later, Munson was also asked to advise on a Phylloxera-resistance rootstock for California vineyards, and through discussions with Luther Burbank he recommended Vitus Rupestris.
These rootstocks are now used worldwide. In honor of this work, the French government named him Chevalier du Merite Agricole, of the French Legion of Honor, and the city of Cognac in France became a sister city to Munson's home of Denison, Texas.