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Côte-Rôtie Struck by Major Hailstorm

Vignerons in the small but prestigious Rhône appellation are still assessing damages to the 2007 Syrah crop

James Molesworth
Posted: June 21, 2007

A serious hailstorm moved through the Northern Rhône town of Ampuis on the night of June 20, wreaking havoc in the town and the vineyards of Côte-Rôtie.

According to some vignerons, the storm lasted all night, leaving nearly 8 inches of hail on the ground by 8 a.m. this morning.

"All the windows in Château d'Ampuis were broken," said Marcel Guigal of E. Guigal today while attending Vinexpo in Bordeaux. "We don't know the full extent of the damage. It's important for me to see for myself whether we have lost a finger or a hand."

One Côte-Rôtie producer attending Vinexpo, who did not want to comment on the record without seeing the damage first-hand, said that initial reports from the vineyards indicated as much as 30 percent of the 2007 crop had been lost.

Côte-Rôtie is a small appellation, totaling around 500 acres of vineyards, and it is home to some of the world's best Syrah vineyards. The appellation's top wineries, including E. Guigal, Jean-Michel Gerin, Jean-Paul & Jean-Luc Jamet, Michel & Stéphane Ogier and R. Rostaing, among others, produce small amounts of Côte-Rôtie which are some of the most sought-after red wines in the world.

The storm seems to have been concentrated in the northern half of the appellation, around St.-Cyr sur le Rhône and the northern half of Ampuis, affecting vineyards in the Côte Brune more than the Côte Blonde vineyards to the south.

Christophe Mingeaud, who represents vigneron Jean-Michel Stephan, said that up to 70 percent of Stephan's vines in the Côte Brune were hit, in contrast to 15 percent to 30 percent in the Côte Blonde, where the majority of his holdings are. "He can not give an exact statement at this stage, but it's not good," said Mingeaud.

Jean-Michel Gerin, who is based in Vérenay, said about 50 percent of his vines were affected.

Hail can be a particularly serious problem in vineyards, as it can damage the leaf canopy, which would hinder or prevent the vines from ripening their grapes. Additionally, hail can damage the grapes themselves, which results in a loss of crop or the spread of rot. In severe cases, hail can even damage the vine's wood, including the nascent bud growth for the ensuing season.

—Tim Fish and Thomas Matthews, reporting from Vinexpo, also contributed to this report

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