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Fierce storms force harvest delay in southern France

Published:  23 July, 2008

Violent thunderstorms brought the harvest in southern France to an abrupt halt last week. An alert rouge' was issued on 6 September for the Gard, Hrault and Aude departments - the second time since 2001


The torrential rainfall started on the evening of 5 September and continued for more than

24 hours, resulting in significant flooding. Water levels rose by 200-300mm, and on the following morning (the 6th), the equivalent of a month's rain fell in one hour. The roads were impassable between Montpellier and Nmes; the airports and train stations non-functional.

By Wednesday, Mto France reduced the alert to orange', which caught people off guard when the second deluge arrived that afternoon. Harvesting, which was already underway in these regions, was postponed.

Localised hailstorms caused the most damage, tearing at the foliage and splitting the ripe berries on impact, resulting

in the destruction of around 400ha of vineyards, notably in Minervois. Jean Hritier, director of the Chambre de l'Agriculture, said: Some access roads and paths have been swept away, and the soil is so waterlogged that the parcels are impossible to access.'

But Philippe Lacoste, president of the Syndicat du Cru Minervois, was more optimistic: The harvest has been suspended for just four to five days due to the flooding, but today [10 September] some producers have been able to continue harvesting as normal.'