Ungrafted Malbec- Risk or Reward?
Updated: May 22, 2021
We recently planted 4,000 ungrafted Malbec vines in our vineyards at 2,850 and 3,300 meters. It is widely known that the main risk of own-rooted vines is their susceptibility to phylloxera, a tiny aphid that eats the roots of vitis vinifera, capable of wiping out entire vineyards.
Despite this risk, we are interested in exploring the benefits of ungrafted stalks. Some arguments in favor of own-rooted vines include: production of more balanced, intense wines, more uniform clusters, faster maturation periods and consumption of less water (Stolpman).
There are precedents that show that our remote location and high altitude could protect our vines from phylloxera. In the late 1800's, a few vineyards mysteriously survived the pest that devastated the vast majority of Europe's vitis vinifera. The article “Islands Safe from Phylloxera's Destruction: Survival, Renewal and Magic in the Vineyards of Italy”, proposes that low temperatures at high altitudes most likely prevented phylloxera from infesting vineyards in Val d'Aosta in the Italian Alps.
Another example was seen in Montalcino, in southern Tuscany, where isolation from other vineyards presumably acted as a safeguard against the plague, the dense woodlands and hungry birds protecting the vines. We are located far away from the vast majority of Peru's vineyards that are located on the coast.
We hope that the two factors working in our favor, our extremely high altitude and remote location, will protect our Malbec from phylloxera. If we are lucky enough to avoid the unfortunate fate, it will be interesting to see if our wine from ungrafted stalks is more intense, ages better or shows other unique qualities.
Singleton, Kate. “Islands Safe from Phylloxera's Destruction : Survival, Renewal and Magic in the Vineyards of Italy.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 July 2004, www.nytimes.com/2004/07/10/style/islands-safe-from-phylloxeras-destruction-survival-renewal-and-magic.html.
Stolpman, Peter. “Own Rooted Vines: The Risk.” Stolpman Vineyards, 21 June 2017, www.stolpmanvineyards.com/blog/vineyard-revolution/own-rooted-vines-the-risk/.
Zecevic, Aleks. “Own Rooted vs. Grafted Vines: Which Make Better Wines?” Wine Spectator, 13 Apr. 2018, www.winespectator.com/articles/do-grafted-or-own-rooted-vines-make-better-wine