The vineyards of one of southwest France’s best producers, Alain Brumont of Château Montus, in the Madiran appellation, were heavily damaged in a storm April 29 that spawned large hailstones and even a rare tornado near Toulouse.
“For us it was a big storm for 10 minutes, very strong,” Fabrice Dubosc, who oversees winemaking at Montus and Château Bouscassé, Brumont’s other major property in Madiran, told Wine Spectator. “In the area of Montus, we lost 60 percent of the production.” According to Dubosc, Brumont was the hardest hit in the area—most other Madiran vintners escaped the worst effects of the storm. At Montus, the hail and heavy rain shredded the young vine shoots.
Madiran lies in rolling countryside northeast of the city of Pau. Its leading grape is the dark, tannic and unheralded Tannat, which Brumont fashions into world-class reds. Cabernet and Merlot are also grown, and are often blended with Tannat to soften its raw power.
Dubosc said Brumont’s Tannat vines suffered the most damage because they bud early; the Cabernet vines were undamaged by comparison, as were the vines at Bouscassé. “It was our insurance against the hail,” Dubosc said ruefully, who added that chances were slim that the La Tyre single-vineyard bottling, Brumont’s top red, would be made in 2012. “It’s a bit early to say something with precision, but I think we will not have quality with La Tyre."
Southern France has been plagued by cold, wet weather this spring, which has delayed vineyard growth throughout the region. Outside of Toulouse, the southwest’s biggest city and France’s third-largest, a tornado touched down but caused little damage.