Hailstorms wreak havoc on Burgundy vineyards, with up to 80pc of harvest lost

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 June, 2014, 10:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 3:50am

Some of France's most prestigious vineyards are counting the costs of fierce hailstorms that have battered the Burgundy region for the third consecutive summer.

Hailstones as big as golf balls, buffeted by 100km/h winds, swept across the Cote de Beaune region on Saturday afternoon, with winegrowers predicting between 40 per cent and 80 per cent of the grape harvest would be lost.

"It's a disaster," said Jean-Louis Moissenet, the president of the Pommard winegrowers' association. "We were gearing up for a good year, but now it's gone by the board."

A spokeswoman from the Domaine Chauvenet in Pommard said it would take a few days for insurers to determine the extent of the damage. "But it's not just us, everybody in the region is affected," she said.

Other areas hit by the storms include Volnay, Meursault and Beaune, home to a total of 2,000 winegrowers.

The Domaine Chauvenet, which produces Pommard red wine and Beaune Premier Cru, was among the growers that activated 34 anti-hail vortex generators across the region. Thanks to advance warning, the generators were switched on at 9am. But it remains to be seen if they were effective against the hailstorms, which lasted for seven minutes.

In an industry in which 70 per cent of producers are not insured, some Burgundy winegrowers are beginning to despair after losing 60 per cent of the harvest last year. The region's grapes were also pounded by hailstorms in 2012, causing a price rise of 30 per cent on that year's vintage.

Jean-Pierre Charlot, a winegrower from Volnay, said that despite having insured his vines, he was paid only 10 per cent of the value of the grapes he lost last year.