A ‘violent storm’ brought hail to Bordeaux vineyards late last Friday (17 April), moving along a corridor from the Entre-deux-Mers area to St-Emilion and its satellite appellations.
‘Between 600 and 800 hectares of vines would be more than 80% affected’, said the Gironde region’s Chamber of Agriculture after an initial assessment.
While some vineyards were barely touched, it said that 100% of ‘herbaceous organs’ on other vines were destroyed in extreme cases.
One producer of Bordeaux Supérieur red and white wines in Entre-deux-Mers told local newspaper Sud-Ouest that hail destroyed this year’s crop on 27 of their 30 hectares. The winemaker requested anonymity, the newspaper said.
In St-Emilion, Philippe Raymond, technical director of the St-Emilion wine council (CVSE), told Sud-Ouest that it was too soon to give a precise summary. He said that hail damage was often patchy.
Some estates reported near misses. ‘We got lucky this time,’ said Jonathan Maltus, of Le Dôme and who also owns Château Teyssier. ‘Although we have 60 hectares, we were only hit on the border of Le Dôme – but this damaged leaves and not the buds,’ he told Decanter.com on Tuesday (21 April).
Martin Krajewski, owner of Clos Cantenac on the western side of St-Emilion, said a 1.5-hectare parcel of vines in the commune of St-Suplice-de-Faleyrens was hit, although initial inspections suggested the damage wouldn’t be too bad.
‘Overall, the losses for us may well be negligible, less than 2 to 5%, as the vines on that parcel were also quite behind in growth and in some cases had only just started to leaf,’ he said. But, he added that it’s often a waiting game, and the team would know more in two to three weeks.
Several St-Emilion estates possess anti-hail protection systems, some of which claim to help detect risk and even disperse hail formation in clouds.
Château Croix de Labrie, a St-Emilion Grand Cru estate in the east of the appellation, is part of a 16-winery alliance that uses the Selerys anti-hail system. This helped to limit damage, it said on Facebook.
Château Figeac, the St-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé estate, has also invested in hail protection. ‘With the help and attention of the team, thankfully there was no damage to the vineyard[s] of Château Figeac,’ said the estate’s general manager and winemaker, Frédéric Faye.