Grafting has been an important element of viticulture since the end of the 19th century when the phylloxera louse decimated Europe’s vineyards. After numerous diverse attempts to get the pest under control, it was discovered that grafting onto resistant rootstocks was the solution to the catastrophe.
Grafting involves the connection of two pieces, in this case, of vine material so that they join and grow together as one plant. The scion from one variety is grafted onto the rootstock of another. Traditionally it was done by hand in the field (field grafting) or indoors (bench grafting), although nowadays much is done by machine.
Vines are usually grafted to a rootstock which offers beneficial properties that the scion does not possession; for example, resistance to phylloxera or nematodes, tolerance to soil characteristics such as salinity, lime, excess water or drought.
Grafting may also be carried out to change the variety and thus eliminate the need to replant an entire vineyard. This is known as top grafting.