Chateau Montus, one of the leading chateaux in the Madiran appellation, was severely struck by hail on Sunday evening - while Bordeaux suffered rainfall two-and-a-half times the average.
Hailstones of up to 1.5 centimeters in diameter pelted the communes of Castelnau-Rivière-Basse and Madiran, ‘destroying a large part of vines,’ local newspaper SudOuest reported.
At least 50% of vines at the 85ha property were hit, owner and winemaker Alain Brumont said, with some plots losing up to 95% of their early-season shoots and buds, causing around €3m damage.
In total, around 200 hectares of AOC Madiran were affected, with around 70ha almost destroyed. Further serious hail was reported in the AOC Côtes de Gascogne.
The 2012 vintage is expected to be reduced by at least 30% across both Montus and Brumont’s other wine, Torus.
The hail was part of a stormy weekend that shook the southern half of France. On Saturday 28 April the French weather station Météo France placed nine departments on alert for high winds in a zone stretching from the Alps in the Massif Central.
Eastern Bordeaux, particularly Castillon and parts of Saint Emilion, saw widespread flooding, after one of the wettest and coldest Aprils on record.
In total, rainfall during the last 24 days of the month was 178.8mm, 223% above the average of 80mm, while total sunshine hours were 32% below average, with 120 hours compared to the usual 177 hours.
Local expert John Salvi MW told Decanter.com, ‘This is unheard of, and slowed down vine growth almost completely.’
Part of the concern is that the – brief – return to sunshine this week will put further pressure on the vineyards.
Benoit de Guigne, director of Chateau Lagarosse in AOC Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux, said, ‘While the rain was desperately needed after such a dry start to the year, the vineyards are now so muddy that it is impossible to get spraying machines into them to protect the vines. If the weather turns humid this week, we are going to start worrying about mildew.’
Written by Panos Kakaviatos, and Jane Anson in Bordeaux