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News analysis: Victoria is not amused

Published:  23 July, 2008

It's hardly something to boast about, but the state of Victoria is Australia's phylloxera capital.

Timeline: a history of phylloxera in Australia

Early 1870s: Reports of phylloxera's devastating effect on France's vineyards reach Australia. The colonies of New South Wales and Victoria ban the importation of grape vines from Europe.

1877: The ban had come too late. Phylloxera first officially identified in vineyards in the Victorian wine region of Geelong.

1878: The Victorian government responds to the spread of phylloxera by destroying vineyards. By 1881 all of Geelong's vines have disappeared.

1885: Phylloxera found at William Macarthur's historic Camden vineyard near Sydney.

1893: Phylloxera found in Bendigo, north of Melbourne, and a similar vine eradication policy is adopted, again halting the development of a promising wine region dead in its tracks. South Australia establishes a Phylloxera Board, whose education campaigns and constant vigilance have managed to keep the state phylloxera-free. Due in part to its remoteness from the rest of the country's vineyards, Western Australia also has avoided infestation.

1894: A Conference of Vignerons in Melbourne first begins to seriously consider the then-controversial option of re-planting infested vineyards using vinifera vines grafted onto phylloxera-tolerant American rootstocks.

1899: When phylloxera arrives in Rutherglen (at that time Victoria's most important wine region), replanting rather than uprooting ensures that the district's wineries survive into the 20th century and beyond.

Today: Australia's Phylloxera Infestation Zones are as follows: in New South Wales, around greater Sydney and Albury/Corowa down on the Murray River; in Victoria, the state's northeast (King Valley, Rutherglen, Beechworth, etc); Nagambie and around Mooroopna in the Goulburn Valley; a single vineyard in the Strathbogie Ranges; and now in the centre of the Yarra Valley.