One of the worst hailstorms in recorded Champagne history has hit the southern Côte des Bar region, destroying this year's grape crop.
Damage to the vines from the 15-minute deluge is so severe it is estimated that a third of next year’s harvest will also be lost.
The hail was concentrated in a band just to the south of Bar-sur-Aube and particularly hit the villages of Urville and neighbouring crus Bergères, Meurville and Baroville, which comprised some 670 hectares of largely Pinot Noir vineyard.
In Urville, around 100 hectares of vines out of the 189 in the village were completely destroyed and will produce no grapes this year. There was around 50% damage to a further 50 hectares.
‘The damage is estimated at 130% because at least 30% of the 2013 crop will also be affected,’ said Michel Drappier of the eponymous house, the largest in the region and based in Urville.
‘According to the Services Techniques of the CIVC, who have visited our vineyards, it is the third largest hail damage in the history of the Champagne region,’ he told Decanter.com. Meurville and Baroville had damage on a similar scale to Urville.
Growers livelihoods are threatened, though stocks of réserve individuelles will enable them to still produce around three-quarters of the volume of Champagne they made last year. However, using up all their reserve stock, as many will have to do, will leave them without any cover for next year.
‘From today, we have no more security stock in our cellars and each cloud passing by will be scrutinised closely,’ said Drappier. ‘We will have to be careful with our sales and hold back some volume.’
Written by Giles Fallowfield