Burgundy wine prices may have to rise due to violent hailstorms hitting the region's vineyards for a second year running, and leaving producers seeking government aid.
Some vineyards, and particularly those in the north of the Cote de Beaune, have lost close to their entire crop to hail. Pommard and Volnay were among the worst affected by the downpours in late July and August, leaving morale at rock bottom.
While the region’s wine trade body, the BIVB, has cautioned that hail has only affected 4.5% of Burgundy’s wine growing area. In September, it forecast the 2013 harvest would be up to 10% lower than the region’s ten-year average.
Following a small grape haul in 2012, Burgundy supplies could be squeezed. ‘There is a big pressure,’ Caroline Parent-Gros, of Domaine AF Gros.
‘If you examine the market, you will have almost no [2013 vintage] red wines from Cote de Beaune, and from other areas it will be lower than in other years.’
She added that the Cote de Nuits is also down more than expected. Alongside hail, uneven size and ripening among grapes, known as millerandage, is a problem in many vineyards, meaning lower yields.
Prices will likely have to rise. ‘But you can only raise prices so far,’ Parent-Gros told decanter.com. ‘Outside of the Grands Crus, you have wines in other parts of the world that can replace a glass of Burgundy on the table.’
There is more hope for quality in 2013, if the vineyard management is good. ‘It’s going to be variable, but nothing’s going to turn into a catastrophe,’ said Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy buyer at Berry Bros & Rudd.
He warned against early calls. ‘This time three years ago, we all thought it would be pretty poor and it turns out there’s wonderful wines.’ Experts at last year’s Hospices de Beaune auction were also surprised by the quality of 2012.
In the meantime, many producers with vineyards damaged by hail are talking to their banks to try to ease the financial pressure. The BIVB estimates that around half of those affected don’t have insurance.
Producers are also seeking government assistance via the social cover system for farmers, Mutualite Sociale Agricole. ‘We’re still in discussions with the government about it,’ said Thiebault Huber, of Domaine Huber Verdereau in Volnay. ‘There’s a special pot of money for this, but they have to decide in Paris.’
The BIVB is also asking for the worst-hit producers to be exempted from land tax. Some damaged vines will be inspected this coming winter to see if they are still able to produce fruit.
Written by Chris Mercer