Nobody better captured the ignorance of the public when it came to growing grapes and making wine than the French caricaturist Honoré-Victorin Daumier (1808–1879), who addressed the natural calamities associated with viticulture in the caption from the print The Worries of a Wine Grower: “We escaped the frost. . . . All we now have to worry about is the sun, the rain, the vine-mildew and all the rest.” The phrase “all the rest” could well apply to the phylloxera mite, which entered France around 1863 from vine stock imported from North America. Over the course of the next 30 years, most of the vineyards of Europe were wiped out by this scourge. This situation reversed itself when European grape stalks were grafted onto North American vine roots, which had developed a resistance to the phylloxera mite. Aside from natural disasters, the temptation of man to tamper with wine through the introduction of inappropriate additives (such as licorice or water from the River Seine, as noted by Daumier) also cannot be overlooked.

Rebecca J. Williams
Research Assistant, Department of European Decorative Arts

Honoré Victorin Daumier. Impressions From the Vintage. “- What! You are treading bare-foot? - So what… you wouldn't want us to do it in our dancing shoes!,” plate 2 from Croquis D'automne, 1856. Gift of the Print and Drawing Club.