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Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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birds can be a more serious modern vine pest than phylloxera in some areas because they are so difficult to control, particularly during grape ripening when they feed on grapes. Birds have been feeding on grapes as they have evolved for about 60 million years, and in so doing have spread grape seeds in their excreta. This is one reason why grapes are thought to have developed small, black, sugary fruits which attract birds. (Subsequent selection of mutations has given us light-skinned grapes.)

For small vineyards in isolated regions, and particularly for early-ripening vine varieties, birds may destroy an entire crop. Unfortunately, the birds begin their destruction as soon as the grapes begin to ripen, so early harvest is not a solution. As well as the potential crop loss, bird pecks provide entry points for all sorts of bunch rots. Control measures are expensive and bird damage can make some vineyards uneconomic. Birds are often the greatest problem facing vineyards in new viticultural regions, especially if the vineyards are isolated (as in england and Long Island in new york, for example).