Phylloxera is a pest of commercial grapevines worldwide, originally native to eastern North America.
In the late 19th century the phylloxera epidemic destroyed most of the vineyards for wine grapes in Europe, most notably in France. Phylloxera was introduced to Europe when avid botanists in Victorian England collected specimens of American vines in the 1850s. Because phylloxera is native to North America, the native grape species are at least partially resistant. By contrast, the European wine grape Vitis vinifera is very susceptible to the insect.
The epidemic devastated vineyards in Britain and then moved to the European mainland, destroying most of the European grape growing industry. In 1863, the first vines began to deteriorate inexplicably in the southern Rhône region of France. The problem spread rapidly across the continent. In France alone, total wine production fell from 84.5 million hectolitres in 1875 to only 23.4 million hectolitres in 1889. Some estimates hold that between two-thirds and nine-tenths of all European vineyards were destroyed.