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Languedoc vines suffer ‘worst hail in living memory’

A deluge of hail stones has hit vineyards in one of the most prestigious areas of Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France.

A fierce hailstorm on Wednesday afternoon (17 August) turned streets white and sent golf-ball sized stones of ice plunging into vineyards in the Pic-St-Loup area of Languedoc, north of Montpellier.

Winemaker Fabrice Bonmarchand told Le Point newspaper nearly all vineyards near to the village of Lauret had been damaged to some extent.

He said that a 92-year-old winemaker in the village told him he ‘couldn’t remember a hailstorm as violent as this one’.

Local officials have been attempting to measure the full damage of the downpour.

It was feared that some winemakers lost all of their crop, just weeks before the 2016 harvest was due to begin.

Initial estimates suggest the hail damaged up to 60% of the 2016 crop on average in the area.

But, it was too early to get a proper assessment and hailstorms are known to wreak havoc unevenly. One grower’s vineyard may survive relatively well while a neighbour’s is hit badly.

Jérôme Despey, head of the chamber of agriculture in the Hérault region of Languedoc, said there were ‘few words’ to describe the situation. ‘Our thoughts are with the winemakers and we are fully mobilised [to help],’ he said.

Bad weather has caused problems for winemakers in many parts of France this year.

Chablis has suffered two bouts of hail, and frost has severely curtailed the size of the likely harvest in Burgundy, Loire and Champagne.

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