Violent hailstorms ripped through vineyards in northern Beaujolais and southern Mâconnais during the afternoon of Aug. 7. Local vignerons estimate that 5,000 acres were affected, with damage to grapes and vines ranging from 10 percent in some parcels to 100 percent in others.
About a dozen villages were involved, mostly in the northern zone of Beaujolais, according to the Bureau Interprofessionel du Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB). These include parts of Chénas, Juliénas and St.-Amour, three of the region's 10 crus.
"The worst is Juliénas, Jullié, Emeringes and Vauxrenard—70 percent to 100 percent [damage]," said Stephane Aviron, who, together with Nicolas Potel, operates the négociant label Potel-Aviron. "Chénas, Fleurie and St.-Amour took 40 to 60 percent, Morgon 30 percent. It's a very bad time for hail because it's the beginning of the maturation [of the grapes]. That will be a big damage for Juliénas—almost no more grapes and no more leaves, so no more maturation."
Chaintré, Fuissé and Leynes, three villages in the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation, which borders Beaujolais to the north, were also hit. "The 'circle' of Fuissé [an ampitheater of vines on the western border of the village] did not suffer," reported Antoine Vincent, whose family owns Château Fuissé in Fuissé, though he cites damage of 10 to 20 percent in some of their other parcels.
"In the north of Beaujolais, where I come from, it lasted for only 10 to 15 minutes, but the hailstones were as big as golf balls," said Gregory Barbet, proprietor of Château de la Terrière in Brouilly. The more southern Beaujolais crus—from Moulin-à-Vent south to Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly—did not experience any hail.
Hail damages the grape skins, and the leaves and canes of vines, impacting both the current crop and potentially the 2009 harvest also. Affected grapes must be eliminated before they rot.
The BIVB reports that regional authorities will allow estates that lost more than 25 percent of the average yield of the past five harvests to augment their 2008 crop by purchasing some grapes and/or must from vineyards in the same appellation. But any wines made from purchased grapes cannot be labeled as domaine-bottled.
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