Various parts of Bordeaux were struck by hailstorms Monday and Wednesday, in downpours lasting for about 20 minutes each. The impact could last a lot longer, as vines were heavily damaged, leading to a smaller harvest this year and possibly even in 2010.
Early reports from vignerons say the worst-hit appellations are Côtes de Bourg, Premières Côtes de Blaye, Margaux, Graves and St-Émilion. Some stones were the size of ping pong balls, stripping leaves and shoots off the vines as they fell.
"We've never seen anything like this before," said Stephane Donze of Château Martinat in Côtes de Bourg, whose second estate in neighboring Blaye will produce at least 50 percent less fruit this year. "Some vintners have lost their entire harvest and will have to give up their activity, as they weren't insured against hail damage."
On the other side of the river, the most impacted zone appears to be the southern part of Margaux. "The upcoming harvest will be smaller than usual but its quality won't be affected by the low yield," said Gonzague Lurton, president of the Syndicat Viticole de Margaux, or growers syndicate. "It's too early to say how much has been lost, as we have to wait for the flowering period."
This is the second year in a row that Margaux is going to witness a drop in volume partly due to hailstorms. But the situation could be worse. "Some of the vegetation can still bounce back," said Lurton. "If the storms had taken place later in the year they would have caused even more damage."
In Graves, some 3,200 acres in the northern part of the appellation have been damaged. "We have to take care that vineyard rot doesn't develop as many vines have become vulnerable," said Jean-Louis Viviere, director of the Syndicat des Vin de Graves. "Not only will the storm damage translate to a lower yield in 2009, but pruning will be more difficult for vintners next year."
The most affected appellation appears to be St.-Émilion. According to official estimates, around 9,800 acres were damaged. "Some vines have been left without vegetation, as if it were still wintertime," said Nadine Couraud, director of the Syndicat Viticole de St.-Émilion. Although it is difficult at this early stage in the year to forecast the size of the upcoming harvest, many vintners are pessimistic.
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