A fierce hailstorm described as the first of its kind by several witnesses means Mâconnais vineyards face a 'crucial' three weeks early in the Burgundy 2016 growing season.

  • Hailstorm in Mâconnais, Burgundy, damages 100% of first buds in some places
  • Spring hail also hits Cahors in south-west France

A heavy hailstorm in Mâconnais lasting up to 50 minutes in some places damaged vineyards over an area of 2,500 hectares (ha) in the afternoon of 13 April.

Growers say that the rare spring storm has put their Burgundy 2016 vintage under early pressure.

‘We have never seen anything like it,’ Jean-Philippe Bret, of Bret Brothers, told Decanter.com. ‘I have talked to long-standing vine growers and they have never known a hailstorm during spring.’

From Prissé in the north to Chânes around seven kilometres further south, Mâconnais vineyards were hit during bud break. In some areas, between 50% and 100% of vines have been destroyed, according Frédéric Burrier, the President of Pouilly-Fuissé.

The most affected communes are Pruzilly, Chasselas, Fuissé and Solutré, and the least affected are Chaintré, Vinzelles and Lassales.

Hail also hit the north of Beaujolais, in Saint-Amour and Juliénas appellations, with moderate damage.

‘A crucial three weeks ahead’

Jean-Philippe Bret said: ‘If the primary bud is destroyed, the hope is that a second bud will grow. Although such growth is likely, maturity of different vines will be heterogeneous. The next 15 days to three weeks will be crucial for the future of the 2016 harvest.’

Cahors hailstorm

On Thursday 14th April, hail also hit Cahors in south-west France. Vineyard damage ranged from 20% to 50% depending on plots and sectors, according the Syndicat des Vins de Cahors.

As in Mâcon, the force of the storm was strong with wind speeds of 100 kilometres per hour affecting nearly one third of the vineyards, approximately 1,000ha.

Editing by Chris Mercer.