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Hailstorms severely damage Champagne vineyards

Hailstorms ripped through swathes of Champagne vineyards this week, threatening potentially 10% of this year’s crop.

Provisional figures provided by the Champagne trade body (CIVC) originally estimated that 1,800ha (hectares) of vines were damaged. The figure has now risen to around 2,400ha.

Early indications show nearly 8% of Champagne vineyard area was damaged, in some cases severely, with losses amounting to potentially 7.2m kg of grapes destroyed.

The majority of the hail fell from 7 to 11pm on the night of 4 July with, in some areas, meters registering 98mm of rain. The storm swept along a vertical 40km corridor in the western area of Champagne from Mareuil-le-Port, 14km west of Epernay, to Jonchery, west of Reims.

Although the storms do not appear to have threatened any Grand Cru vineyards, some producers in Mareuil-le-Port report vineyards with 80% damage.

‘You would say it’s a risk of the job but despite that we prefer to avoid those kind of risks,’ said grape grower Benoit Tarlant, who posted images of the destruction on his blog.

And, say others, the danger has not gone away.

‘So far, we are not worried about the 2006 harvest,’ Daniel Lanson of the CIVC told news agency AFP. ‘But we are worried that this could continue. It’s the start of summer and it’s a risky time.’

The CIVC say the damage so far is one quarter of that experienced in 2000 when around 11,000ha of vines were affected.

Click here to see Benoit Tarlant’s video

Written by Oliver Styles

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