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Champagne growers hit by violent hailstorm

Hailstones bigger than golf balls have caused at least some damage to 500 hectares of vines in the Côte des Bar area in the south of the Champagne region, according to initial estimates.

A violent hailstorm hit the Champagne region on Saturday 12 May.

Growers reported hailstones five centimetres in diameter raining down on vines in Côte des Bar, in the south-east of the Champagne region and predominantly planted with Pinot Noir. Early estimates suggested 500 hectares of vineyards were damaged.

The hail corridor extended from Les Riceys to Vitry-le-Croisé, with the village of Neuville being the most badly affected.

Hailstones hit roughly ‘20% of the Côte des Bar area’, said Bruno Duron, from the Comité de Champagne, the trade body.

‘Of the 500 hectares affected, 250 to 280 hectares are located on the Riceys terroir,’ he told Decanter.com.

‘We had already had an episode [of hail] with lots of wind on 29 April, but this one has had a bigger impact.’

Hail fell on growing vines. ‘The Pinot vines were at seven to eight leaves while the Chardonnays had reached 9 to 10 leaves,’ Duron said.

However, the damage remained very localised in the context of the Côte des Bar vineyard area. ‘The Côte des Bar is 8,000 hectares (24% Champagne),’ Duron said.

But for the winegrowers affected, it was another disaster after the damaging spring frosts in 2016 and 2017.

There were concerns that some small-scale growers might no longer have individual reserves in their cellars, placing them under extra financial pressure.

Editing by Chris Mercer.

Read also: Extreme weather becoming the new normal, warns major report

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