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Penedès hit by severe hailstorm

Following months under severe drought, the Catalonian region now sees up to 1,500 hectares of vines devastated by a severe hailstorm. Worst-affected areas might not be able to harvest at all.

Catalan grape growers praying for water have had their prayers answered, but not in the way they had hoped. A hailstorm that fell on 1 June in the Penedès region of Catalonia devastated an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 hectares of vines. Hardest-hit areas might see any chances of a 2024 harvest completely wiped out.

This is the latest in a series of unfortunate weather events for the Spanish region, which faced a bout of mildew in 2020 and has been under severe drought alert for much of 2024.

Catalan wine publication Vadevi published a map of the storm’s path drawn by local growers. It shows a vertical line from Sant Joan de Mediona to Cubelles, cutting straight through Vilafranca de Penedès. The worst-affected vineyards were in the towns of Santa Margarida i els Monjos, Castellet i la Gornal, Sant Martí Sarroca and Font-rubí.

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‘There was rain in the forecast that night, but instead of water it was just ice falling,’ said Ferrán Lacruz of Bodega Clandestina, located in Sant Martí Sarroca. The storm began around 8pm, with hail falling fast and furiously over the span of half an hour. Lacruz suffered some damage to his Macabeo/Macabeu crop, but his vines mostly escaped the full rage of the storm. Others were not so lucky.

‘Some vines just have the trunk left,’ said Josep Marrugat, head of viticulture for agricultural union Unió de Pagesos. Marrugat said there will be no harvest from the most severely damaged vines this year, and next year’s harvest might also be compromised. Speaking to local newspaper La Ciutat, he classified the situation as ‘very demoralising.’ Unió de Pagesos estimates a loss of about seven million kilos of grapes, or about €5m, for local grape growers.

Guardiola de Font-rubí, Alt Penedès | Credit: Unió de Pagesos

Most of the vineyards damaged by hail produce grapes for DO Cava, exacerbating an already difficult year in which the regulatory council has had to take extraordinary measures to meet high global demand. Added to this is the uncertainty generated by the Catalan elections in May, in which no party was able to win a majority needed to form a government. Marrugat said that so far there was no one who could make the decision to send aid to growers with damaged vineyards.

Both Marrugat and Lacruz called for the support of the entire wine sector to stabilise prices and allow growers to make a living in the face of an increasingly chaotic climate. And also for a change of mindset. ‘It’s not only wineries who purchase grapes, but also consumers, who need to understand that prices need to change for the Penedès to have a future,’ said Lacruz, who does not produce wines under an appellation. ‘We need to make a change from volume to value, in order to be able to survive in years when we produce much less,’ he concluded.

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