Some of the finest vineyards in Alsace have been destroyed by violent hailstorms mixed with intense rain showers last week.

The hail wreaked havoc on five Alsatian communes – some with grand cru vineyards including Domaines Trimbach and Weinbach.

‘I have never seen so much damage so quickly,’ said Frédéric Blanck of Domaine Paul Blanck, which lost 60% of its 2007 harvest, including the grand cru Mambourg and parts of Furstentum.

It took about one hour last Wednesday evening for 115mm of rain to pour on vines in Kientzheim and Sigolsheim, mixed with hail, Blanck said.

Entire vineyards – 100% of vines – at Bennwihr, Beblenheim and Mittelwihr were destroyed by the storm. Vineyard workers worked around the clock trying to save what they could.

‘You’d think that you were in the dead of winter when you see the landscape,’ Pierre Trimbach, winemaker at Domaine Trimbach, told decanter.com.

Trimbach lost half its vines in Mittelwihr, though most of the domaine’s vines further north, used to make blue chip wines such as Clos St. Hune and Cuvée Frédéric Emile, were left unscathed.

Winemaker Laurence Faller said she was ‘shocked’ when she came back to her vineyards of Domaine Weinbach: ‘We lost vines we use to make our Quintessence [the celebrated late harvest selection des grains nobles cuvee] in Mambourg,’ she told decanter.com.

‘But in a way, we were lucky because the rain mitigated the effect of the hail. In other parts, you could see cars damaged by the hail where there was less rain.’

Other grand cru vineyards, like Schlossberg, were not seriously damaged.

But the rain brought other problems. Since the weekend, Faller, Blanck and others have been clearing routes and treating their vineyards. ‘We hope it stays dry for the next few days,’ she said.

According to the regional newspaper Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace, many domains are particularly hard hit because they did not have insurance against hail.

Written by Panos Kakaviatos in Alsace