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Hail Shatters Burgundy's Hope for a Promising Crop

Violent summer storms strike the Côte de Beaune for a third consecutive year

Bruce Sanderson
Posted: June 30, 2014

A violent storm unleashed its wrath on Burgundy's vineyards in the late afternoon of June 28, affecting an area from Chassagne-Montrachet to Beaune in the southern half of the Côte d'Or and Nuits-St.-Georges to Morey-St.-Denis in the north. The full damage has yet to be assessed, however, Volnay, Pommard and the southern premiers crus of Beaune were the hardest hit. Estimates place the damage there at roughly 70 to 80 percent crop loss. The impact on other areas was approximately 20 to 30 percent.

"It is another blow dealt by fate on the Côte de Beaune, and especially on Beaune, Pommard and Volnay," said Anne Parent, proprietor of Domaine Parent in Pommard. "Premiers crus of Pommard were very affected. We estimate between 50 to 80 percent damage. We are waiting for the experts during the week to get a more precise estimation."

In Beaune, the Clos des Mouches was also damaged, with 50 to 70 percent loss of grapes according to Philippe Drouhin, estates manager for Maison Joseph Drouhin.

This is the third year in a row that hail has damaged vineyards in the Côte de Beaune. In Volnay, Marquis d'Angerville owner Guillaume d'Angerville reported the entire commune was hit. "It was very dry, just ice cubes, no water. Not big ice but a very violent storm with big winds. It's still early to gauge the damage, but at first sight it looks pretty similar to 2013."

After last year's devastation, the villages invested in cannons to seed storm clouds with silver iodide, a preventative measure against hail. The cannons were used, but it's difficult to determine if they had any effect.

The Côte de Nuits was not spared this year, but reports say there was less impact. "The damage doesn't look too bad for the Côte de Nuits," said Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac. "There was a bit of initial panic. We all know how much worse it could have been."

The cruel irony is that after four small harvests, a wonderful spring resulted in ideal flowering and an above-average crop of healthy grapes. "[The] mood obviously is not great. Disgusted would be a good word," said d'Angerville. "We had a great vintage in our hands—perfectly sound vineyard, no diseases, good volume. Three years in a row is unheard of."

Jeffery Bakke
Chicago —  June 30, 2014 7:37pm ET
We were just there tasting at various vineyards in late april, they were so excited about this years weather and crop, such a shame.
Peter Hellman
New York, NY, USA —  July 1, 2014 10:34am ET
When hail hit last year on the Cote de Beaune, Etienne de Montille, with core holdings in Volnay and Pommard, said that he didn't know if he could survive another sharply reduced harvest. he meant economically, of course. And here it has come...

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