Hail hit Beaujolais on July 10, and for the second year in a row, the same regions were affected. While a large area was damaged, the worst hit was endured by what is now known locally as “hail alley”—which runs from Regnié through Morgon, Chiroubles, Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent.
Damage is still being assessed, according to Mélina Condy Benedic of Inter-Beaujolais, the association of Beaujolais producers. It’s possible that many vines will recover. “The hailstones were not big,” says Condy Benedic.
The hailstones were somewhat contained thanks to the $536,000 cloud-seeing program that now covers all 103,000 acres of vines in Beaujolais, Burgundy and Chablis. This storm was the first real test of this major investment. The program works by sending particles of silver iodide from vineyard generators into the clouds to stop the formation of hail. The reason it only partially succeeded this time was because of the high tornado-like winds that accompanied the rain and the hail.
Hail hit the iconic Château du Moulin-à-Vent at 4.30pm. And according to Morgane Chambriard, spokesperson for the chateau, while the size of the stones was not spectacular, the combination of the hail and violent winds did cause damage. “It lasted five minutes, enough to destroy the plants and this year’s harvest.”
There is still plenty of time before harvest for the cloud seeding shield to be tested again, particularly as France is going through a summer of violent storms.