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Chablis wineries counting cost of fierce hailstorm

A violent 'supercell' storm that brought heavy hail to this famous corner of northern Burgundy in early May has led to reports of severe damage in some vineyards, but a full impact assessment has not yet been completed.

A fierce hailstorm hit the Chablis region in northern Burgundy at the beginning of May, prompting concern about damage to vineyards.

Some producers told French media outlets that they had been severely impacted by deluges of icy hailstones on the night of 1 May.

Weather service Météo France said violent ‘supercell’ storms affected different parts of France and began in northern Burgundy, bringing heavy hail to certain areas, and particularly Chablis.

It said some hailstones were between 4cm and 5cm in diameter, which would make them similar in size to a table tennis ball.

While the full extent of vineyard damage was still unclear, there were reports of hail slicing through leaves and damaging vine plants, which are still in the relatively early stages of the 2024 growing season.

Catherine Poitout, of L&C Poitout, told France 3 that the area around Beine was completely white after being carpeted with hailstones. ‘It could have been the middle of winter, in the mountains,’ she said.

Burgundy’s regional wine council, the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB), said on X – formerly Twitter – that it stood in solidarity with wine growers affected.

A BIVB spokesperson said that some areas were hit harder than others. Early reports suggested Chablis grand cru climats Vaumur, Vaudésir, Moutonne and Preuses were among the worst-hit sites, according to the BIVB.

Elsewhere, communes most affected were: 

  • Fontenay-près-Chablis
  • La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne
  • Villy
  • Maligny
  • Beine
  • Lignorelles

The BIVB spokesperson said that around one sixth of Chablis vineyards were thought to have been ‘severely hit but not completely destroyed’, adding damage may not be as bad as first feared in certain places.

Damage was still being assessed and the BIVB said it was working on a more complete report of the situation.

Christian Moreau, of Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils, told Decanter that the Chablis appellation covers 5,866 hectares (ha) and that around 500ha may have lost between 20% and 30% of the potential 2024 crop, while other areas saw no damage at all.

On top of that, other vineyards may have sustained damage up to 100%, he said, again commenting on the picture across the appellation as a whole. But, he added the situation should become clearer in the next couple of weeks.

‘Now we just need some warm weather,’ he said.

French agriculture minister Marc Fesneau offered his support to Chablis winemakers, adding that the government would look into ways of supporting growers.

Hailstorms have affected winemakers in Burgundy several times in the past, and in other regions around the world, too. Their ferocious nature means that significant damage can be caused in a matter of minutes.

Around 12 months ago, hail caused concern in Provence as storms swept through the southern French region.

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