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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Lyn Parry

Violent thunderstorms raged over the vineyards of south-east France for more than 36 hours during 8-9 of September. There was more than 400mm of rainfall, in certain areas of the Gard over 1m of rainfall was registered in 24 hours. The storms started on Sunday afternoon and already by Monday the flooding was so significant that the motorways A7 and A9 were impassable. The area stricken covers a roughly triangular region falling between Valence-Marseille-Montpellier. The Gard department suffered the worst. The weather department issued a warning on Sunday at 4pm, but it arrived too late for those unlucky wine producers who had not yet harvested. Certain vineyards surrounding Orange were devastated when the Aigues burst its banks. The vines are submerged in several centimetres of floodwater; the local cellars are completely inundated; the roads inaccessible. Some Chteauneuf-du-Pape producers have lost their entire crop. However, M Perrin of Chteau de Beaucastel is one of the fortunate ones. He said, Beaucastel hasn't suffered any great problems. We started harvesting last week and all the Syrah is in. Now we are just waiting for the Mistral to blow and dry off the Grenache.' Nearly 40% of the Gard's 6,700 hectares of vineyards have been damaged, notably the appellations of Lirac and Tavel. Certain producers are deprived of electricity. Without electricity the machinery can't function and the vinification is irreparably interrupted, resulting in the total loss of the juice from grapes already harvested. The Languedoc-Roussillon region mainly escaped damage apart from the eastern edge where there are mainly vins de pays vineyards. In the northern Rhne the rainfall was also substantial. M Chapoutier said: At Chapoutier the grapes are healthy and there aren't any major problems. Although the rainfall has been heavy, the grapes will dry out now the wind is blowing.' For Condrieu and St-Joseph the outlook is grim, the producers have been waiting impatiently for the ban de vendange' so that they can rescue at least some of their crop.