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Hailstorms blaze a trail of destruction through Provence

Winemakers in Provence are on red alert after hailstorms blazed a trail of destruction across the region over the weekend.

Producers reported that they had never previously seen such large areas affected by hail, which swept through the Var department.

Vineyards in Flassans, Gonfaron, Le Luc, Bandol and Vidauban were among the worst affected as the hail pounded for around 30 minutes.

Éric Pastorino, president of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence (CIVP), could not immediately provide figures on the extent of the crop loss.

However, he said that ‘those who have been affected have been very hard hit’ and added that they will still be feeling the impacts next year.

Laurent Rougon, president of Comptoir de Flassans – a co-operative representing growers with 1,300 hectares under vine – told French publication Vitisphere: ‘The hail corridor stopped, pounded for 30 minutes. There was 10cm to 15cm of cumulative hail, as if there had been snow with a lot of water.’

Initial estimates put the damage at more than 90% in the core hail corridor, while neighbouring plots could face crop losses of around 20%

Producers are braced for the prospect of more hail and thunderstorms in the days ahead. Meteorologist Yohan Laurito called the weather pattern ‘an explosive cocktail’ and warned that these conditions could persist for the next week.

Last year, Provence’s harvest was 14% above the five-year average and 18% ahead of the frost-affected 2021. Producers were hoping for another bumper crop in 2023, but they are now wary of suffering further hail damage.

Some tried to adopt an upbeat tone, but Benoît Coste – a winemaker who suffered damage to around 10% of his land under vine – said: ‘It is only May, there is still a long time before the harvest. This is just the beginning.’

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