Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I work at a wine store and recently came across a label that read "Made from 100 percent vinifera rootstock." Umm...why would one put that on their front label? As opposed to, say, "Our vineyards are totally susceptible to phylloxera?”

—Shelley V., American Fork, Utah

Dear Shelley,

For those trying to follow along, let me briefly explain that most grapevines in the world today are grafted onto phylloxera-resistant rootstock. Phylloxera is a root-sapping aphid that can be devastating to vineyards. It's attracted to certain grapevines (Vitis vinifera, the species of most wine grapes), but not other rootstocks. Grafting is the method of transplanting a young vinifera vine onto a phylloxera-resistant rootstock.

It’s rare, but some vineyards survived phylloxera, while other regions have never had to worry it due to their remote locations or other geographical extremes. So while the vast majority of grapevines are grafted, so there are some vinifera vineyards that are "own-rooted."

Why brag about this? It’s certainly a distinguishing feature, and if you work in a wine shop, you know that’s never a bad thing when you’re trying to have your wine stand out on a wine shelf. More important, many winemakers believe that grapes grown on original rootstock will be more intense and flavorful, and could have a longer life than their grafted counterparts.

I’ve seen this phrase most often on bottles of Chateau Ste. Michelle wines from Washington. Columbia Valley’s dry summers and chilly winters make the region phylloxera-resistant. I asked winemaker Bob Bertheau of Chateau Ste. Michelle what makes vinifera rootstock wines so special, and he said, “Having vines on their own roots helps us maintain the health and longevity of our vineyards and preserves the grape variety in its natural state, with no influence from the grafted roots.”

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 365,000+ ratings.