Fierce hailstorms have damaged vineyards in parts of Chablis in Burgundy, plus Beaujolais and Cognac, leading the country's farming federation to declare a 'state of catastrophe' in the worst-hit areas.
Photo credit: @JBLemoyne
There have also been reports of serious hail damage in nearby Beaujolais and also Cognac, further west.
Full damage reports were not yet known by Tuesday 31 May, but France’s national farming federation, FNSEA, has declared a ‘state of catastrophe’. One producer told France’s Le Figaro newspaper, ‘it’s Apocalypse Now’.
FNSEA’s declaration has not yet been confirmed by France’s agriculture ministry, but French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll said he had ‘mobilised the state’s full resources’ to assess damage and find a way to help those affected.
The latest outburst from the skies marks a tough beginning to the 2016 growing season in some parts of Burgundy, and particularly Chablis.
It is the second hailstorm that some vineyards have experienced already this year and frost had already damaged some growers’ first buds in April.
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This time, violent hail in southern Chablis was expected to have caused extensive damage to vineyards in the communes of Courgis, Préhy and Chichée.
Some Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards were affected, but it was too early to know the damage due to subsequent heavy rain.
That rain has forced the winemakers to delay spraying sulphur or comfrey on the leaves in the vineyards, which has increased risk of mildew.
Heavy rain during the vine flowering period can also affect yields, but it was again too early to know the extent of the problem.
At the same time, the Auxerrois vineyard, near Auxerre in Saint-Bris-Le-Vineux and Irancy, was hit by a ‘supercell storm’ that brought hailstones as large as ping-pong balls, leaving piles of hail from 20 to 50 centimetres high in the streets.
A large majority of the vineyards were damaged, and some producers saw all of their vines destroyed.
In Beaujolais, it was mainly the northern part, which is home to the Crus of Beaujolais, which was hit by by hail. Beaujolais authorities said some plots in the appellation of Chiroubles were completely destroyed.
Parts of Cognac were damaged, too, as well as Madiran and Pacherenc vineyards.
Updated 01/06/2016: To make clear that Madiran and Pacherenc vineyards are not part of Cognac
Extra reporting by Chris Mercer