Storm devastates Bordeaux vineyards

Storm devastates Bordeaux vineyards News Wine News
  • Thursday 26 June 2003

A 10-minute storm on Tuesday night has destroyed 5000 hectares of Bordeaux vineyards.

The worst affected zones are Targon, Grézillac and Créon in the centre of the Entre-Deux-Mers appellation. Whole vineyards have been flattened by storm force winds and stripped by an extraordinary hail storm lasting 10 minutes.

Producers have lost not only this year's crop but next year's as well. The pruned canes, or 'spurs', that provide the next season's fruiting shoots have been stripped of their 'bark' and rendered useless.

In the Créon area virtually every grape has been destroyed. 'The 2003 is dead, and 2004 looks very bad,' said one winemaker.

While it is possible for French winemakers to ensure their vines against hail damage, wind is an uninsurable risk. The Bordeaux Chamber of Agriculture is now considering declaring the storm a natural catastrophe so producers can claim compensation. One Entre-Deux-Mers producer told, 'I think the mayor will ask for the natural catastrophe classification so that we can be reimbursed.'

In the Entre-Deux-Mers region alone – the area worst hit by hail – 2000ha of vines have been ruined. After generic Bordeaux Blanc, the appellation produces Bordeaux's greatest volume of white wine, with a growing reputation for exceptional value. It also makes huge quantities of generic Bordeaux red and Bordeaux Supérieur.

'Jean-Bernard Rivaud of Chateau Allégret in Saint-Léon, who saw 90% of his vineyards affected, said, 'the hail stones were not particularly big but it was the force of the wind propelling them on to the vines that made the situation worse.'

Pierre Lurton, proprietor of celebrated Saint-Emilion château Cheval Blanc, has lost 50% of the vines that produce a second red wine, Boisset la Chapelle, at his Entre-Deux-Mers château, Marjosse.

Buildings too have been badly damaged. The roof of the town hall at Sauveterre-de-Guyenne in the east of Entre-Deux-Mers has completely collapsed. Across the Dordogne in Saint-Emilion, workers with chain saws were yesterday morning clearing fallen trees that had made many roads unpassable.

Winemakers attending this week's Vinexpo trade fair in Bordeaux have been shocked by the devastation.

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