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Missouri scientist Charles Valentine Riley saved the Champagne industry

Missouri scientist Charles Valentine Riley saved the Champagne industry

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Raise a toast to an incredible 19th-century Missouri scientist when you pop that bottle of fine French bubbly on New Year’s Eve. His name is Charles Valentine Riley.  He was an entomologist. He studied bugs. And he saved the Champagne industry. “His manner was enthusiastic, his face beaming with animation, his eyes sparkling, his manner eager,” a reporter once wrote of this globally celebrated scientist in 1875.  Riley raced to the aid of shattered European winemakers during an agricultural tragedy that’s gone down in history as the Great French Wine Blight. Winemaking in France is rooted deep in the soil — and deep in the soul. The soul of France was torn apart in the 1860s when its vineyards were invaded by a voracious pest called grape phylloxera.  The microscopic aphid feasted on t...