Devastating hailstorms have hit the Mosel Valley, destroying cars, buildings and up to 50% of the grape crop in some areas.
The most damaging storm, in which hailstones the size of tennis balls crashed through roofs and windows, lasted about 15 minutes around 3.15pm last Friday.
It was sufficient to decimate some vineyards. The storms were so localised that neighbouring vineyards suffered varying damage – some losing half their crop, others only a small percentage.
Dr Loosen, which has vineyards throughout the valley, lost 10% of its grapes overall, with some vineyards untouched and others losing 30-50%.
Anja Möll, export manager at the winery, told Decanter.com that their vineyards near Urzig - Erdener Prälat and Urziger Wurzgarten – were untouched, as were those at Berncastel.
But at Wehlen and Graach to the west, up to 30% of their grapes were destroyed and the worst hit were vineyards at Lösenich and Kinheim, where up to 50% of the grapes were destroyed.
At SA Prüm in Wehlen there was ‘heavy damage’, Raimund Prüm said. ‘Some of the hailstones were 17cm across,’ he told Decanter.com. ‘Whatever they hit was smashed.’
They would be able to salvage half the crop, he said, and what remained would be ‘very, very good’ – which was particularly hard, especially after last year’s very small harvest.
Prüm said that while grapes were destroyed the vines themselves did not suffer too badly.
This was not the case at Weingut Max Ferd. Richter in Mülheim, which lost 30-50% of its crop, Dirk Richter said, as well as suffering major damage to vines.
‘There were hailstones the size of golf balls which tore down branches, hurt the skins of the grapes and damaged the canopies. The buds for next year have also been damaged.’
The only ‘positive thing’ to come out of the chaos, both Prüm and Möll said, was that the hail was followed immediately by rain, which washed the surviving bunches clean of juice and sugar from the damaged grapes, reducing the danger of further damage from fruit flies.
Winemakers are now praying the current good weather – warm dry days and cool nights – continues. If there is any more rain, the damaged bunches could quickly rot, and harvest is still over a month away.
The general mood in the middle Mosel is one of shock, a local resident, Sarah Washington, said. She is a key member of the Pro-Mosel lobby group campaigning against the new bridge across the river and saw first-hand the extent of the damage.
‘People are more shocked by the damage to their houses and cars. In one village, Veldenz near Mülheim, every single roof was smashed. It looks like a war zone.’
She said some people reported open wounds from hailstones. One which fell in Veldenz weighed 800gms.
Richter estimated that 1000ha of the middle Mosel had been damaged to a greater or lesser extent.
Additional reporting by Madeleine Pitt
Written by Adam Lechmere