Bordeaux: Nine Minutes of Hail – Grapes, Leaves and Bark of the Vines Stripped Leaving Broken Sticks

Bordeaux has undoubtedly seen some heavy hail in its many centuries of grape growing. In 2003 and 2009 hail damage sent insurance costs soaring. About a week ago, nine minutes of hail stripped grapes, leaves and even the bark of the vine from some vineyards.

Vicomte de Roquefeuil in his Vineyards at Chateau du Castelneau - Entre-Deux Mers Photo Credit: Louise Flanagan

Vicomte de Roquefeuil in his Vineyards at Chateau du Castelneau – Entre-deux Mers
Photo Credit: Louise Flanagan

The big-name houses and grands crus of the Champagne and Bordeaux regions were spared the worst of the devastation, but wine authorities in Bordeaux say that while it is hard to estimate cost, the figure could be as high as €100m (£86m). They are urging the government to step in and help small, uninsured producers such as Roquefeuil, who have lost everything. Source: The Guardian


Entre-deux-Mers is located just east of the city of Bordeaux. The storm hit a swath 25 miles long and 9 miles wide.

Thousands of hectares of vines between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers in the Entre Deux Mers were devastated by the hailstorm that ripped through this corner of Bordeaux last Friday evening, 2 August.

I’ve seen hail damage to Bordeaux vineyards in 1999, 2003, 2008, 2009 and 2011 at varying stages of the season, from one end of Bordeaux to the other. In our 15 harvests, as I pointed out in yesterday’s report, we’ve had hail at Château Bauduc in 2003, 2009 and now in 2013. But I have never seen anything as bad as the vine damage sustained by some of our neighbours last Friday. Others, meanwhile, were untouched. Ssource: Gavin Quinney writing at Jancis Robinson

The president of the Entre-deux-Mers Winegrowers Association said the storm cost growers and estimated $26 Million USD.

In just 10 minutes, five percent of the crop that would become 2013’s dry white Bordeaux was destroyed in a hail storm that ravaged the famous wine-producing region last Friday…

Due to the storm, which only lasted from 8:40 p.m. to 8:50 p.m. last Friday, the 2013 dry white Bordeaux from Entre-deux-Mers is set to become a rare commodity, which will greatly affect the pricing of the 2013 vintage.

The storm was so powerful that it destroyed 5 percent of Bordeaux’s total vineyard area and impacted 10 percent of the region as a whole.Source: Fox News

André Lurton, owner of Chateau Bonnet, said he lost 692 acres out of a total of 741 acres. Chateau Bonnet’s long history saw vines first planted on the property in 1744.

In the Loire, mid-June 2013, Chateau de Moncontour’s winemaker, Christian Feray said his entire crop has been destroyed.

Hail in Loire the Size of Eggs

Hail in Loire the Size of Eggs

“Even the harvest next year is compromised because the branches will not have time to mature by the end of the summer.” ~ Christian Feray, Source: The Drinks Business

In the Guardian article linked above, de Roquefeuil’s wife Diane documented the vines with her camera, before -  “lush in leaves and fruit,” after the storm passed a short time later there was nothing left but “broken sticks.”

Burgundy, July 2013:

The size and scope of the storm were what made it so damaging. Hail is no stranger to Burgundy, but typically its effects are localized, hitting one parcel of vines while leaving the neighboring plots untouched. “Savigny was entirely damaged from 60 to 100 percent,” reported Patrick Bize, a Savigny-lès-Beaune grower. “We know storms and hail, but normally they are very local. But this time, the whole of Savigny suffered. I’ve never seen this before.”…

Indeed, after three small harvests in a row—2010, 2011 and 2012—growers in Burgundy desperately hoped for at least a normal harvest in 2013. Spring already brought a lot of rain and caused some flooding in cellars. For many, yesterday’s storm dashed those hopes and was another cruel reminder of nature’s force. Source: Wine Spectator

Late June in Champagne:

The storm than spread north and gained in intensity, as hail fell on the villages of Fontette, Saint-Usage, Arconville, Bergères, Couvignon, Fontaine, Meurville, Urville and Baroville. Overall, the hail damaged 2,700 acres of vines, most of which were Pinot Noir. The damage to particular parcels varied from between 10 percent to 100 percent, with some lots stripped bare of any green. Source: Wine Spectator

As with other hail-devastated areas, Champagne is concerned about damage that cannot be cured in one year’s time.

The Rhone, August 2013:

Following a pattern established over the past three or four years, the Rhône has escaped some of the worst excesses of France’s weather during the ripening season of 2013. The slow start after the wet and cold of the spring and the early summer into June gave way to a July of generally fine and hot weather all over France and much of Western Europe….Read a full report at John Livingstone-Learmonth

Read Chateauneuf du Pape, Years of Great Vintages, Big Taste.

The lesson, if you want wines from these problem areas, and if you can afford them, buy them now. Check my left sidebar for harvest news for 2011s and 2012s, not yet on the shelf.

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