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Beaujolais 2019 volumes hit by hail, heat and frost

April frosts, summer heatwaves and violent hailstorms look set to reduce the 2019 Beaujolais harvest volume by at least 25%, according to Inter Beaujolais vice president David Ratignier.

‘The 2018 harvest was good, about 800,000 hectolitres. This year it looks like it will be less than 600,000 hectolitres,’ Ratignier told Decanter.com.

Some in the region have described seeing hailstones as large as pétanque balls following violent storms in the past week.

‘What we are seeing, as the meteorologist have said we would, is extreme climactic events,’ said Ratignier.

‘There is no middle ground anymore. Never just one storm or only rain. We had three major hailstorms on 18 August plus one or two smaller ones and plenty of rain.

‘The heat is extreme. We had temperatures of over 40 degrees this summer. And drought this year and last year. That’s not what you would call normal weather.’

As well as the damage done by the frost, heat and hail, Ratignier expects to see significant reductions during the sorting process, as less-than-perfect grapes are removed.

‘That sorting could certainly bring more surprises,’ he said.

On the quality side, however, he was much more optimistic.

‘We are looking at a really good year, the maturity is good and so is the weather forecast [from now on].’

An Inter Beaujolais press release described the 18 August hailstorms as increasingly violent, arriving one after the other between 5pm and 9pm as they travelled along a weather corridor that runs diagonally across the Beaujolais appellation.

Average losses in the area were estimated to be about 20% to 50%.

Particularly badly affected was an area known as Pierres Dorées in the heart of the Beaujolais appellation.

At Domaine J. P. Rivière, in the centre of Pierres Dorées, losses were well above average. Owner, Jean-Pierre Rivière, said that hail hit around 15 of his 25 hectares. His total losses, due to frost, heatwave and hail could reach 75%.

‘We expect a harvest of about a quarter the normal volume, or maybe a third. That will mean supply problems,’ he warned.

Meanwhile, at Domaine Rivière in Bagnols (slightly further south and west), owner Laurent Gay said his 28 hectares were hit four or five times, with damage to about 80% of the vineyard. Gay expected his harvest volume to be down about 30% compared to his annual average.

Descriptions of the hailstones varied, ranging from the equivalent of ping pong balls up to the larger metal spheres used in the French game of pétanque.

See also: Extreme weather becoming the new normal, says report

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