T.V. Munson the “Grape Man”
The Man Who Save the French Wine Industry!
Thomas Volney Munson was born in Astoria, Illinois. Munson was an 1870 graduate of the University of Kentucky. Shortly after completing his education, he married and moved to the vicinity of Lincoln, Nebraska.
In 1873 he became interested in the improvement of the various species of grapes native to the United States and planned to do systematic work in the way of developing new varieties by cross pollination and hybridization. His experiments failed because of climatic rigors and a visitation of the Rocky Mountain locusts. Undismayed, Munson moved to Denison, Texas, in April 1876 where two of his brothers had already relocated.
While primarily remembered as a horticulturist,and became recognized as a botanist as well as a viticulturist. He wrote a volume entitled Native Trees of the Southwest for the United States Department of Agriculture and a similar thesis being submitted in 1883 for his master's degree at the Kentucky Agricultural College.
Munson made extensive use of native American grape species, and devoted a great deal of his life to collecting and documenting them. He released hundreds of named cultivars, though only a few remain of significance today. Though breeding for wine quality seems to have occupied a great proportion of his effort, it was his work on rootstock development that had the greatest impact on viticulture. This work provided European grape growers with phylloxera-resistant stocks, allowing them to recover from the devastating epidemic of the late 19th century while still growing the ancient Vitis vinifera cultivars.
In honor of this work, the French government named him Chevalier du Merite Agricole of the French Legion of Honor, and Cognac. France, became a sister city to Munson's home of Denison, Texas.
The root stock that Munson used in France came from the wild Mustang and domestic grapes of Ingleside, Tx. The wild Mustang grapes still proliferate there.
His book, Foundations of American Grape Culture, published in 1909, is regarded as one of the seminal texts of grape breeding and is widely referenced even today. Grape breeder Elmer Swenson credited it with inspiring his early interest in the field.
The West Campus of Grayson County College in Denison, Texas, preserves much of Munson's work. In 1974, the T.V. Munson Memorial Vineyard was established which preserves many of his cultivars and produces stock for propagation. This was followed in 1988 with the opening of the T.V. Munson Viticulture and Enology Center, which serves as a repository for documents and other historical materials regarding Munson. It also houses research, classroom and conference facilities.
T.V. Munson died January 21, 1913 in Denison, Texas.
The Mustang Grape Vitis mustangensis
Vitis mustangensis, commonly known as the Mustang Grape, is a species of grape that is native to the southern United States. Its range includes western Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma. This woody species produces small clusters of hard green fruit that ripen into soft 3⁄4-inch (2 cm) dark purple berries in August-September. The fruit can be potentially irritating to the skin when picked or eaten, and are mildly unpleasant to eat because of its bitterness and high acidity content. They have a thick outer layer of flesh and on average contain four seeds. This variety of grape is recognized by the white velvet-like underside of the leaves, and often covers small trees, shrubs, fences and other objects that it grows near.
The grape has a culinary use as jelly and grape juice, both of which are typically sweetened with sugar so as to be palatable. The fruit and leaves of Mustang Grapes may also be used to dye wool.