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125 AA

A rootstock vine; see there.

Term for the lower part or rootstock of a grafted vine that originates from a phylloxera-resistant American vine. During grafting, the upper part (scion) of European grape varieties of the species Vitis vinifera is grafted onto it. The main reason for such grafting is the low susceptibility or resistance of the roots of wild American varieties to the underground stages of phylloxera, or to the nodosities and tuberosities (growths) formed on the roots as a result of phylloxera infestation.

Quality criteria

With regard to suitability for viticulture, rootstock grape varieties must also fulfil further breeding requirements. These are low susceptibility to both types of mildew, low tendency to chlorosis, high resistance to bacteria and viruses, good wood structure and wood maturity, good adaptation (tolerance) to different and difficult soil types such as dry soil or limestone soil, good absorption of nutrients from the soil, as well as good grafting affinity to the grafted grape variety without promoting coulure. Good intergrowth of the two foreign tissues at the grafting site and the harmonious coordination of the growth characteristics of the grafted grape variety with those of the rootstock variety ensure good vigour and grape quality with consistently high yields from the vine.

Unterteil (Wurzelwerk) und Oberteil (Edelreiser)

The majority of rootstocks used in European countries are descendants of the three American wild species crosses Vitis berlandieri x Vitis riparia, Vitis riparia x Vitis rupestris and Vitis berlandieri x Vitis rupestris. The research of the US botanist Thomas Volney Munson (1843-1913) made a decisive contribution to this. A rootstock with complete phylloxera resistance, approved in 1989, was created by Dr Helmut Becker (1927-1990) from a cross of Vitis riparia x Vitis cinerea. He named it after the German oenologist Dr Carl Börner (1880-1953). Not every rootstock variety is equally suitable for the different soil types, site conditions, noble varieties and growth requirements.

That is why there are official recommendations as to which rootstock harmonises best with which grape variety (top) on which soil and produces the required results. The cuttings of most rootstock varieties root without any problems, but the cuttings of European Vitis vinifera still root best. Therefore, the European part of a grafted vine cutting should not be buried in the soil. Experience has shown that the rootstock varieties with crosses of Vitis cinerea var. helleri (old name Vitis berlandieri) or Vitis champinii root poorly, so the ends of the cuttings are coated with the growth hormone auxin to induce root formation.

Just like quality wine grape varieties, rootstock grape varieties are also authorised or classified by the regional authorities (depending on the wine-growing region). Some (latent) vine diseases can be spread on a large scale during grafting and cuttings propagation if, for example, plant material (rootstock or scion) infected with viruses or bacteria is used. The effects often only become visible in older canes. For this reason, the use of plant material that is as healthy and virus-free as possible is required by law in the EU. Proof of this must be provided using a standardised procedure (see certification of vines).


The development of specialised rootstocks on a larger scale began in the last third of the 19th century. The most successful breeders include François Baco, Helmut Becker, Carl Börner, Maxime Cornu, Georges Couderc, Gustave...

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