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Beaujolais hit by hail and ‘mini-tornado’

Vineyards in the north of Beaujolais – notably in Fleurie and neighbouring Chénas – were hit by hail and storms on Monday afternoon.

Hail damaged vines in Fleurie

According to local news site Le Progres a “mini-tornado” across the Rhône caused hail, mudslides and uprooted trees across the area, starting just before 5pm and hitting the north of the Beaujolais region, with the villages affected including Fleurie, Chénas, Moulin-à-vent, Villié-Morgon, Régnié, and Chiroubles.

The passage of yesterday’s storm follows the same corridor as that of last year’s, which saw serious hail damage to vines across the region, a statement from Inter Beaujolais confirmed today.

“From Beaujeu to Moulin-à- Vent, the corridor affected is almost identical to that of 2016,” it said. “A large area was touched, but to varying degrees, depending on the zone: the north of Lantignié, Régnié (to a lesser extent), Morgon (principally Les Charmes and Corcelette), Chiroubles (especially Grille Midi) and Fleurie (Le Bourg, Les 4 vents, Champagne…) appear to be the worst hit appellations. Chénas and Moulin-à- Vent have also been significantly affected.”

Despite the violence of the storm, the hailstones themselves were not big, it said – “almost certainly as a result of cloud seeding” – but in combination with the high winds, the storm amounted to a “mini tornado” that completely stripped certain vines.

“The coming days will allow a clearer picture of the percentage of vines concerned to emerge, and the possible impact on the future harvest,” it concluded.

Last year’s storm caused serious setback for Beaujolais, with Chablis and Mâcon also badly affected by hail, and affected the quantity of the harvest, but the then managing director of Inter-Beaujolais Jean Bourjade later confirmed that the hail and rainstorms had had little bearing on the final quality of the wines.

This year’s hail follows a series of icy temperature in the late Spring, which wreaked havoc across Western and Central Europe, hitting vineyards in France, particularly in Champagne, Bordeaux, Northern Italy, the South of England, northern Spain (including Rioja, Bierzo and Galicia), Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

In June, around 42,000 hectares of Burgundy was set to be covered by a ‘hail shield’ of silver iodide, a technique designed to prevent the formation of hailstones that is already employed in over 15,000 hectares of Burgundy as well as in Bordeaux and Southwest France. It followed a storm in 2014 that was described as being “like a machine-gun attack” with between 40% to 90% of vines in the area affected.

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