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Bordeaux hailstorms disastrous for some but minor impact compared to recent frost

Published:  29 May, 2018

The widely reported hailstorms in Bordeaux during the weekend have been estimated to have hit 3% badly in terms of surface, with a further 3% likely to have been affected on a lesser scale, according to the Bordeaux governing body CIVB.

While having disastrous consequences for the 3% severely hit - primarily in Bourg and Blaye, and the southern end of the Haut-Médoc - with some vineyards completely wiped out (80% loss or more), the overall hail impact on Bordeaux was “minor” when compared to the devastating impact of the frost that caused a 40% drop in the Bordeaux 2017 wine harvest, said Harpers Bordeaux correspondent and producer, Gavin Quinney.

“Statically people tend to over emphasise damage from hail when in fact it tends to be very localized in comparison to frost, which tends to have widespread affect across the region,” he said.

But while the 3% was “quite small”, it does translate into 3,400 hectares which “is still quite a lot”, he added.

“The hailstorms this year were slightly different from previous ones as they hit the city of Bordeaux – the first time this has happened in the past 20 years, as far as I can recall, and so it was very news worthy despite the relatively minor overall impact on overall production when you put the damage into context,” said Quinney.

And while unaffected producers were showing empathy for the producers hit by the hailstorms, their main concern would now be the risk of the continued bad weather affecting the flowering which has just started, as this could have a severe impact on yield, he added.

“After a bad weather spell we really need the weather to clear up now,” he said.

Bordeaux, which comprises 112,000 hectares of vines, was last hit by hailstorms in 2013, when Quinney’s vineyard was severely affected, which inspired him to embark on a trial of anti-hail netting.

Three years into the trial, it was however still too soon to say if it was financially viable as to be so, it would have to “last for many years”, he said, adding the netting was currently not permitted across the AOC and AOP as it is thought to transform natural environment too much, although Quinney said he did not see this a “valid reason”.

This weekend’s hail first hit the south of Bordeaux on Saturday, affecting the Pessac-Leognan region and the south of Medoc.

It then devastated vineyards of Cotes de Bourg and Cotes de Blaye on the right bank of the Gironde river and, further east, in the Gensac and Pessac-sur-Dordogne.