Languedoc hit by hail ‘catastrophe’

Languedoc-Roussillon has become the latest region of France to experience severe hailstorms, with some grape crops completely wiped out.

A map from the Aude chamber of Agriculture charting damage caused by this month's hailstorm

A map from the Aude Chamber of Agriculture charting damage caused by this month’s hailstorm

Between 12,000 and 15,000 hectares of vineyard in the Aude – about a quarter of the department’s total plantings – have been affected by the storm, which lasted for less than half an hour on Sunday afternoon.

Among the worst hit areas were appellations around Carcassonne, especially Minervois and Corbières, where early reports indicated that 80-100% of vines have been damaged.

“It’s a catastrophe,” Philippe Vergnes, president of the Aude Chamber for Agriculture, told Sud-Ouest as he visited the affected region.

The news follows in the wake devastating storms in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune, Bordeaux and Cognac last month, compounding damage and fruit shortages created by similar weather in 2013 – and in Burgundy’s case 2012 as well.

With this latest damage in the Aude alone expected to result in a production loss of 600,000 hectolitres from this year’s harvest, Jérôme Despey, president of the wine council for FranceAgriMer reported a “new low in production” for French vineyards.

“It is going to pose a supply problem,” he acknowledged. “We now risk losing market share as climate conditions bring us year after year the smallest productions ever known.”

A report released by the OIV in 2012 showed that France’s production has already been in steady decline for over a decade, falling by 28% between 2000 and 2012. Earlier this year the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture announced that the country had leapfrogged both France and Italy to become the world’s largest wine producer.

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