January 24, 2023 – Below is a link to a fascinating story. It is the story of Charles Valentine Riley. It’s the story of a root-devouring bug called phylloxera that was destroying vineyards from Australia to France in the 1860s. It’s the story of the role played by the wine industry in Missouri in finding the cure for phylloxera and restoring the devastated French wine industry, particularly in Champagne.
The hero of the story is Charles Valentine Riley, born in London in 1843. He emigrated to the United States when he was 17 and became a citizen. His fascination and knowledge of the bug world led him to be named Missouri’s first state entomologist. At the time, Missouri’s Stone Hill Winery was the third biggest wine producer in the world winning many international awards, and wine was a very important industry in the state. But Missouri’s vines were resistant to the phylloxera louse and Riley realized therein lay the solution for France. Interestingly, the French were not overjoyed by the American suggestion.
Apart from being a scientist, Riley was also a very talented artist and illustrator. He even enlisted in the 134th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry in 1864 and fought in the Civil War. It’s a delightful and inspiring story whether you drink wine or not. Simply click on link here to learn more.