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Thursday 31 July 2014

Storms wreak havoc in Bordeaux, Champagne and Cognac

30th July, 2013 by Lucy Shaw

Gale force winds, heavy rain and hail stones the size of prunes have wreaked havoc across vineyards in Bordeaux, Champagne and Cognac.

The roof of Pichon Comtesse was damaged in the storm. Credit: Hamish Wakes-Miller

The roof of Pichon Comtesse was damaged in the storm. Credit: Hamish Wakes-Miller

In Bordeaux, Pauillac was the worst hit commune, with winds on Saturday morning reaching up to 102 miles per hour and 60mm of rain falling in an hour.

The town’s clock tower was destroyed in the storm and the roof of Pichon Comtesse suffered considerable damage, while a number of willow trees at Château Lafite were uprooted and flagpoles brought down at Château Pontet-Canet.

Hamish Wakes-Miller, managing director of Bella Wine Tours, described the conditions on Pauillac as “apocalyptic”.

“I feel like a hearse chaser as I don’t like reporting bad news, but conditions were horrendous in the Médoc. The storm was short and sharp. I saw a big oak tree down in front of Château Palmer and a lot of tree damage at Leoville Las Cases. The beautiful willows at Lafite were also badly damaged,” he told the drinks business.

In terms of harm to the vineyards, Wakes-Miller said Lafite had suffered damage to bunches of grapes at the end of its rows.

Grape damage at Lafite caused by the storm

Grape damage at Lafite caused by the storm. Credit: Hamish Wakes-Miller

“The wind had whipped down the vines and ravaged some of the grapes on the end of the rows, causing them to go brown. There was also grape damage at Gruaud Larose,” he said.

Wakes-Miller believes the damage caused by the storm will inevitably lead to a reduced yield in Pauillac this year. “The way things were going it was already going to be a small crop, but now it’s going to be even smaller,” he told db.

The storm cut power in parts of Pauillac, though most electricity was back by Saturday night, although some properties were left without power until Monday.

AFP reports that hailstones the size of prunes fell in Fronsac and Lalande-de-Pomerol, though the Bordeaux Wine Bureau’s president Bernard Farge described the damage as “nothing hugely serious.”

The town of Libourne near Saint-Emilion was also badly affected, with growers in Genissac losing up to 70% of their crop according to TV station France 3.

Over in Champagne, hail split grapes and shredded leaves. According to AFP, up to 20% of grapes in the village of Cramant were destroyed by the hail.

“It is always bad news for Champagne to see such severe weather conditions, especially to the precious Chardonnays of the Cóte de Blancs, however the winemakers in the region will be working hard to ensure we make excellent Champagne despite these tough conditions,” Hughes Le Marie, Americas & Western Europe Regional Director for G.H. Mumm & Perrier-Jouet, told the drinks business.

In Cognac, several rows of vines were also destroyed in the storms.

Nearly 2,000 hectares of vines were affected during last week’s hailstorms in Burgundy, including 40% of the Côte de Beaune’s vineyard land.

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