Cote de Beaune ‘in shock’ after hailstorm devastates up to 90% of vines

By Panos Kakaviatos for / 30 June 2014

This is a longer version of my report that was just published today by

For the latest news: see THIS UPDATE.

A five-minute storm this past Saturday has destroyed at least 40% of the potential 2014 harvest in Meursault, Pommard and Volnay, according to Thiebault Huber of Domaine Huber-Verdereau and president of the Volnay Wine Council.

‘We have lost the equivalent of two harvests over the last three years’ Huber said, referring to previous storms – and in spite of the fact that just 15 days ago, special anti-hail machines were installed to prevent damage, he said.

Golf ball sized hail from the storm, which started at 4:37 p.m. on Saturday, damaged up to 90% of the famous Clos des Mouches vineyard in Beaune. Other premier cru climates including Volnay Fremiets and Pommard Rugiens lost between 60 to 80% of the potential harvest.

‘Throughout Meursault, Pommard and Volnay, the losses have been at least 40%,’ Huber said.

Hail in Volnay, June 2014, photo from Daniel Etienne Defaix

Some 34 tube-like generators had been deployed every 10 kilometres in the areas that were hit by the storm. They shot particles of silver iodide and copper acetylacetone via compressed air into storm clouds to stop the formation of hailstones but ‘they did not work,’ Huber said. ‘We are in shock, and I do not know why they did not work; perhaps the storm was just too intense and too short for the technology to react.’

Both Huber and Nicolas Rossignol in Pommard were interviewed on Sunday by French television, reporting on the dramatic extent of the damage.

Unlike last year’s massive collision of two storms – as I reported last year in – this year’s storm, although of shorter duration, extended beyond the Cote de Beaune, as some hail also fell as far south as the Cote Chalonnais and in the Cote de Nuits, Huber said.

Thibault Liger Belair in Nuits Saint Georges reported having 2-3 cm diameter hail in vineyards he owns in the Cote de Nuits, which resulted in 20-30% damage.  ‘It was less catastrophic than I thought and the most damage came in the south,’ he said.  ‘It will be important to wait two or three days to understand the full impact of the damage.’

Unlike last year, the 2014 harvest looked promising, with a fine and even flowering and copious grapes on the vines. Given the compounded losses over the last three years, Huber said that some properties face financial ruin but could not estimate how many.

Stay tuned for more news this week after vintner associations meet with government officials to assess cost of damage and possible relief efforts.





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