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Bordeaux hail damage terrible but localised

A fierce hailstorm lashed parts of Bordeaux and Cognac late last week causing some terrible local damage across a comparatively small area in the former but much worse damage in the latter.

The path of the hailstorm (in red) on Friday 26 May 2018, overlaid on map of frost damage in 2017 (courtesy Gavin Quinney, the CIVB/Douane is only mentioned in relation to the production figures by AOC)

The hail fell, in violent and dramatic fashion and with hailstones as big as eggs reported, on Friday 26 May in a 15 minute downpour.

As can be seen on a rough map provided by local winemaker Gavin Quinney, the hail hit the city of Bordeaux itself and then moved up on a reasonably narrow front in a couloir (corridor) across part of the Haut Médoc and Entre Deux Mers and then hitting Bourg and Blaye on the right bank of the Gironde Estuary.

So far it appears that some 7,100 hectares were affected in total, about 6% of the total surface area of Bordeaux, and of that some 3,400ha suffered extreme damage.

Bourg and Blaye seem to have been the worst hit, with 5,500ha hit overall and 3,000ha very badly struck; while 1,200ha in the Haut Médoc were hit, 400ha badly and around 400ha were hit in Entre Deux Mers.

Speaking to the drinks business, Quinney said it was important to put the damage into context.

To begin with it is no way near as severe as the frosts that hit the region so badly last year and part of the reason for the coverage this year is that the city was at the heart of the storm, which in turn unleashed a surge of video and photographic posts on social media, heightening the sense of drama.

Although he said things must be “pretty grim” for those growers, especially in Bourg and Blaye, who have now been hit twice by last year’s frosts and this year’s hail, half of the growers in Bourg and Blaye have been left untouched and the wider Bordeaux area is also unharmed.

Not that they will be unconcerned however as across the region at the moment the Merlot is beginning to flower and the weather remains unsettled.

More serious damage has reportedly been done in Cognac where around 10,000ha were hit and the president of the General Union of Cognac Winemakers, Christophe Véral, told The Times it had been a “catastrophe” and a crisis meeting was likely to take place this week.

Cognac was also badly hit by the frosts last year as well.


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