Pau, France, IPREM research institute / IBEAS building
Institute of Analytical Sciences and Physical Chemistry for the Environment and Materials


Duration: 2022-2026

Financial contribution: 3.83M

  • ANR: €1.2M
  • UPPA/CNRS: €871,000
  • Hennessy: €800,000
  • GreenCell: €400,000
  • Other partners: €558,000 (University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux INP, Bordeaux Sciences Agro, INSERM, INRAE, University of Reims Champagne Ardenne)


  • Project holder: University of Pau and Pays de l’Adour (UPPA)
  • Project coordinators: Patrice Rey and Eleonore Attard
  • Science: 8 international research units and 36 people involved

WinEsca ChairAgroecological Protection To Control Esca, A Grapevine Trunk Disease

Viticulture has a major role in French agriculture and, with a positive trade balance of 14.2 billion euros (in 2021), its contribution to the economy is undoubtedly considerable. Within the French viticulture, the sector of Cognac was the leader of wines and spirits exports (3.6 billion euros in sales) in 2021. Hennessy, the world Cognac sales leader, exports around 98% of its products. The company, present on all continents, is also historically deeply rooted in the Charente vineyards.

This 89,560-ha vineyard is dedicated to produce eau-de-vie, i.e. high-quality Cognac. This vineyard has its specifications, which requires vigorous plants and a minimum number of unproductive vines. The deleterious action of Esca, a Grapevine Trunk Disease (GTD), by attacking at least 18% of the Cognac vineyard, jeopardizes this objective of quality plants. Esca can decrease vineyard longevity, and affect berry and wine qualities not only in France but also throughout the world. For 2014-2017 alone, the estimated losses are huge: nearly 12% of French vineyards are unproductive due to GTDs, mainly esca, causing one billion euros in shortfall. It is, therefore, one of the key elements of French agriculture and cultural heritage that is being put at risk.  

This situation endangers the French viticulture sector’s development prospects for the coming years, seriously compromising Hennessy’s initial projections. Driven by its international dimension and fully assuming its leadership role in the viticulture sector, Hennessy has chosen to work with scientists from IPREM (University of Pau and Pays de l’Adour/CNRS) involved in research to fight esca in order to apply for the Industrial Chair program of the ANR.

GreenCell, one of the French leaders in microbial ecology and industrial fermentation, has joined the partners of this chair to develop biocontrol products. The production and transformation of micro-organisms to protect or stimulate plant growth is indeed one of the strengths of GreenCell.  

The WinEsca project aims to control esca by focusing on the following key points:

  • Limiting the development of wood necrosis, by applying a pruning method to plants of different ages (at plantation, in young and mature grapevines) will be studied. The physiology, including sap flows, and the evolution of the microflora in connection with the early appearance of wood necrosis will be particularly monitored.
  • Biocontrol agents will be applied at plantation to provide preventive protection. Mature grapevines affected by esca will also be treated by targeting the white-rot necrosis, which is typical of this disease. For this, bacteria that inhibit the overabundant pathogenic fungus of white-rot, Fomitiporia mediterranea, will be introduced into this necrosis.
  • Assessing the economic aspect of the proposed solutions and the benefits that winegrowers can derive from them. The societal acceptance of biocontrol, i.e. by winegrowers and consumers, will also be studied.

This agro-ecological protection project, which is in line with current environmental considerations, will benefit the cognac viticulture sector as well as French and international vineyards through its results.

WinEsca research chair holders

Patrice Rey

From 2007 to 2021, Patrice Rey was Professor in Plant Protection at Bordeaux Sciences Agro (BSA, France). He  then moved to University of Pau and Pays de l'Adour in 2021. He was Scientific Director of BSA (2011-2015) and Deputy Director of the SAVE research unit (INRAE-BSA 2007-2017). He is currently working on GTD biocontrol and microbial ecology.

In France, he was a member of ANSES, devoted to “Plant-beneficial micro- and macro-organisms” (2013-2019), and of Scientific Committees in viticulture (2007-2019), horticulture (2000-2019), fruit/vegetables (2012-2017). At international level, he has been a member of the Vine Protection group of OIV since 2016 and was co-leader of ‘Microbial Ecology-WG’ in COST on GTDs (2013-2017). He was the titular-coordinator of the first Industrial Chair in agronomy, GTDfree (2016-2021).

Éléonore Attard

Eleonore Attard has been a Research Engineer at University of Pau and Pays de l'Adour for over 10 years. She studies microbial ecology in agrosystems and focuses on the role of plant endophytes. She is the coordinator or contributes to the coordination of projects aiming at assessing and harnessing the roles of beneficial microorganisms in potato crops (Eranet H2020), in seed maize (in collaboration with Euralis, an international seed company), in grapevine (in collaboration with GreenCell).