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Storm in Bordeaux

Posted: February 3, 2000

Storm in Bordeaux

By Jean-Michel Cazes, owner, Château Lynch-Bages

At the end of 1999, a devastating storm hit Bordeaux, flooding the land, ripping up trees and cutting off electricity and phone service to many of the residents. A few weeks later, as conditions returned to normal, vintners through Bordeaux reported that there was little harm done to the vineyards and wine inventory.

However, many château buildings and surrounding woodlands were hit hard, dimming some of the much-visited wine region's natural beauty. Following is a personal account of the damage from vintner Jean-Michel Cazes, who wrote to us to detail the damage he has seen first-hand at the numerous estates he oversees.

You may have heard that a big and rare storm hit our region just two days after Christmas. Many friends asked us about it. When it happened, Thereza and I had just left for Jerusalem, where we spent the end of the year. We had travelled the day before, as another storm hit the Paris area and the north of the country, causing a lot of damage there.

From La Rochelle to Arcachon, a real hurricane swept our region during the night of the 27th of December from 5:30 PM until around 2 AM the next morning. The wind coming from the southwest at times exceeded 100 miles per hour.

The damages were impressive, but it could have been worse! That's what we thought when we saw the extensive, and sometimes irreparable, damages that some of our most unfortunate neighbors had to face. The pine forest near the ocean (Soulac, Lacanau) is practically destroyed. As regards the wine estates, from what I saw, Pontet-Canet (the park looks like it was bombed, and most of the great cedars trees are down on the ground), Loudenne (which suffered extensive damage due to the falling of trees on several houses) and Cantemerle, to name a few, have been hit really hard. The beautiful and historical huge cedar on the terrace at Lafite is broken at 1/3 of its previous height, and may well be totally lost.

However, as far as I know, the vineyards themselves did not suffer.

Here is, from north to south, a quick summary of the situation in our estates and facilities.

Château Les Ormes-de-Pez:

The beautiful 25 meter tulip tree which fell on the northern back wing of the house resulted in a significant loss. The house was very damaged and one bedroom was almost destroyed. About a thousand square feet of roof, and the western side of the winery were crushed by branches.

The roof of the canopy south of the main building was seriously struck -- a great number of tiles have been destroyed. The western, southwestern and northwestern roofs of all the other buildings, and of the worker's houses, will have to be reviewed and repaired. In the garden, a big walnut tree fell, and the railings were crushed by a tree in front of the château.

Château Lynch-Bages:

Thousands of square feet of roofing will have to be reviewed, and much of the edging will have to be redone, mostly on the sides of the roofs which were facing west and southwest. The "cuvier" (fermentation vats building), the reception room's canopy, and the "Batailley" cellar were the most damaged. All of our roofs in Bages village, as well as most of the workers' houses will have to be reviewed.

There was little damage in the park. We lost an apple tree and a nice acacia, but fortunately the big cedar is still standing.

The Michel Lynch winery was seriously struck. 30 percent of the siding was blown away -- west side and south front -- as well as the "Lynch Bages" metallic logo which used to be on top of the southwestern door, which was completely destroyed. The edges of the roof were blown away. About thirty boards of the roofing were destroyed, and when they fell inside the building they did a lot of damage to the ceilings -- especially in the agricultural mechanical part (over 50 percent of the ceiling was destroyed) and in the northern part of the Michel Lynch vathouse.

Château Pichon-Longueville-Baron:

The château lost one of its two lightning conductors which used to stand on the southeastern turret, but the roofing wasn't apparently damaged. A first-floor window on the western side was shattered into pieces. In the winery a little window lighting the corridor in front of the tasting-room burst out. In the parts where the bottles are stocked and in the barrels' cellar many tiles flew away. Same thing for the roof of the tractor garage.

The woods behind the château offer a heart-rending view. We were very lucky because one of the biggest trees fell very close to the buildings. About 50 big trees fell and are now tangled up. There will be a huge amount of work there.

In the vineyard the plateau's turret lost its roof. In Sainte-Anne about ten pine trees fell on the vineyards, but the damages aren't very serious.

Château Cantenac-Brown:

The disaster can be seen in the park where the damage is heart-breaking. An impressive number of trees fell, and unfortunately, among them, several big beautiful cedars. The clearing work will be enormous.

The Lamartine vineyard was completely submerged as well as the house there, which was flooded. The damages on the roofings don't seem to be very extensive, but they'll nevertheless have to be reviewed.

Château Petit-Village:

About 300 tiles in Petit-Village, and 200 tiles in La Fleur-Pourret will be needed to replace those which have been destroyed. However, the major damage can be seen in the tractor garage, where most of the roof has been blown away.

Château Suduiraut:

The viticultural buildings weren't much struck. Only a few tiles will need to be replaced.

Here as well, the storm affected beautiful old trees which are now lying on the ground. The western part of the park has suffered a lot. We lost over half of the evergreen oaks. Behind the château, the two big cedars have fortunately survived. The forest around the Moulette viticultural building was seriously damaged.

In a nutshell, our buildings were seriously damaged, but they will be more or less easily repaired. The only thing which will be difficult to repair is the roofing of the Blanquefort warehouse. In fact, what is for us irreparable is the loss of a great number of our trees, many of which were over a hundred years old, and which had weathered a lot of blasts and thunderstorms. Two hours of a very strong wind broke down their resistance.

With best wishes to all.

Jean-Michel Cazes

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