Hailstorms Hammer Bordeaux and Cognac Regions in France

Hail in the vineyards / Courtesy of Côtes de Bordeaux / Facebook

It’s 2013 all over again for many of Bordeaux’s vintners, one French official said Tuesday, as they try to recover from hailstorms that ravaged an area larger than Paris over the weekend.

“In a single storm, more than 10,000 hectares were destroyed in Bordeaux and Cognac. It’s the same scenario as in 2013!” said Bernard Farges, president of the Organisation de Défense et Gestion Bordeaux (ODG) and Bordeaux Superiors. In 2013, hailstorms damaged hundreds of acres of vineyards. Saturday’s hailstorm followed a smaller one that struck parts of the same regions on May 21.

Thousands of acres covering parts of Bordeaux and Cognac were affected by hail, said Eric Tesson, director of the National Confederation of Producers of Wine and Brandy with Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées (CNAOC)

“They got hammered in Medoc,” said one vintner, who asked his name not be used. His holdings escaped damage.

Blaye & Bourg saw more than half of their vineyards decimated by the storm in less than half an hour. “The temperature dropped 25 degrees in 10 minutes, and then it hailed for maybe 20 minutes. Some of the stones were the size of golf balls,” he said.

Franck Jullion, president of the appellation Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, said roads were sprinkled with with shredded leaves from lacerated vines. “The hailstones left no chance for the vines that would have probably bloomed next week.”

Vins de Bordeaux (Bordeaux Wine Council) said the episode was “all the more dramatic as many of the affected winemakers had already suffered the consequences of the spring frost (late April 2017), which had partially or totally destroyed their harvest.” The group added that nearly 8,400 acres of Bordeaux have more than 80% of their vines damaged compromising the 2018 harvest and, for some, the 2019 harvest due to the severity of the damage to the vines.

Hervé Grandeau, president of the Federation of Grand Vins de Bordeaux, that unites all the appellations of the Bordeaux wine region, told Wine Enthusiast “unless they have insurance, these growers will be seriously hit financially and some may have to sell up.” His organization has already demanded financial assistance from the government and local authorities.

Regis Chaigne is the owner and vigneron of Vignobles Chaigne et Fils in Entre-Deux-Mers region. His land was thankfully untouched by the storm. “In the past, hail had not had a big effect on yields. But this year is different. This year there are other events. There is frost everywhere.

“Right now, we are more worried about the flowering conditions,” he said. “We will all know more in about two weeks.”

The Champagne region was also hit. Nearly 2,400 acres were reportedly destroyed. The destruction was the result of four hailstorms in April and this most recent storm. In all 4,400 acres were affected, reckons the Champagne Wine Council. The worst damaged area was in the Bar-sur-Aube region in Champagne’s southern vineyards.

Additional reporting by Roger Voss

Published on May 29, 2018
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