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Bordeaux producers philosophical following 'catastrophic' hail storm

Published:  12 June, 2014

Bordeaux's wine producers remain philosophical in the face of destructive hail storms, despite some having up to 85% of grapes destroyed.

The storm hit on June 8 where 300 growers saw their crops completely destroyed in the Northern Medoc, while a further 1,000 suffered damage.  

Hailstorm affects BordeauxImpact of hail on vines in 2009Source: Gavin QuinneyThe hailstorm earlier this week wiped out up to 85% of vines on some estates, but affected 300 growers out of 112,000 ha farmed in Bordeaux.

Jean-Christope Mau, who runs Chateau Preuillac, which was badly affected by the hail, told that while many chateaux had decided not to make a 2013 wine, he would not be making a 2014 thanks to Sunday's hail, which he estimates wiped out between 80 and 85% of the vines. "It was catastrophic - last year production was only 70% of a normal vintage and now this. It's complicated."

He said that over the next month the estate would assess whether the leaves were coming back and what the level of maturity of those remaining grapes would be. He said: "It won't be great".

Fortunately for Mau he is insured against damage - but only for the cost price of his grapes, "a good part of the turnover but not enough", rather than the finished wines. But he said the majority of other producers do not even have that.

Mau said the impact will mostly be felt in two years time: "Now we're selling 2012, next year will be 2013, and then we will have the problem."

He was philosophical, saying: "It's nature, we know the risks. We had a fantastic 2009 and 2010, and this year we have a disaster."

He said affected producers were meeting tonight (June 12) with government representatives to discuss whether any aid would be made available either from France or Europe. "Maybe they will help, but it will be small," he added.

Sylvie Cazes, former director of Chateau Pichon Lalande, and new owner of Chateau Chauvin in Saint Emilion, said: "It's really sad. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do - we're beside the Atlantic and from time to time we have to cope with that sort of calamity. I hope they get help from the government.

"Fortunately this year, despite this event, we've just finished flowering and it was beautiful. It's 30ºC in Bordeaux today and we're very happy. It's been a brilliant spring - of course we haven't picked yet and anything can happen between now and then, but so far it looks great."

Gavin Quinney, who runs Chateau Bauduc in Créon in Bordeaux, said: "We survived the storms, which weren't bad here. Great news because the flowering is going well."

He added: "Remember that Bordeaux is 112,000 hectares so 300+ being hit isn't exactly a regional wipe-out. Bad for them, sure, but not a global catastrophe."