Hail and High Winds Devastate Parts of Beaujolais' Best Vineyards

Savage storm stripped leaves and pelted grapes in Beaujolais and Burgundy
Hail and High Winds Devastate Parts of Beaujolais' Best Vineyards
Grapes were split by the hailstones in Domaines Dominique Piron's Lantignié vineyard. (Courtesy Domaines Dominique Piron)
Jul 18, 2017

A violent storm struck parts of Beaujolais and Burgundy July 10, lashing vines in several of the Beaujolais region's top cru vineyards with hail and high winds. Vignerons in Régnié, Morgon, Chiroubles, Chénas and, in particular, Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent reported heavy damage. At one point, a tornado touched down in Moulin-à-Vent (see video below).

The hailstones were not large (less than half an inch in diameter), but the high winds propelled them, stripping leaves and damaging young grapes. The path of the storm, as reported by the trade group Inter Beaujolais, is almost identical to that of a storm that struck in 2016.

Staff members at Château de Poncié, a 120-acre estate in Fleurie owned by the Henriot family, estimate they lost 70 percent of their 2017 production. "This hailstorm will impact a lot the quantity of the next vintage but not the quality," Frédéric Weber, vineyard and wines director at Poncié and Bouchard Père & Fils, told Wine Spectator. "The green berries which have been hit by hail will dry and fall."

Julien Revillon of Domaines Dominique Piron said the damage was quite variable. "The vineyards in Lantignié have been touched quite seriously, around 30 percent [of fruit damaged]," he said, adding that part of Régnié at Croix Penet and the top of Morgon at Les Charmes were also struck. "The center of Fleurie was seriously damaged, but the vineyards we have in Fleurie, at Roche Guillon, were touched only a little bit, fortunately. Moulin-à-Vent was quite seriously damaged, but Chénas, not a lot."

Other areas of Beaujolais, mainly farther south, were spared. "There was no impact on Beaujolais where Nouveau grapes come from, nor Beaujolais-Villages, nor the vast majority of the crus," said Romain Teyteau, the North American export director of Les Vins Georges Duboeuf. "It is too early to tell how this will affect the vintage. We are really sad to see the hard work of some of our partners ruined in half an hour, but you should not draw any general conclusions on the 2017 Beaujolais' harvest based on this isolated storm."

But for many, the damage is a devastating blow to a vintage that is otherwise showing great potential. "We are really sad today," said Weber. "But we continue to trust the crus of Beaujolais and are sure to produce very good wine with high potential and good value for our consumer."

Isolated Damage in Burgundy

While Beaujolais weathered the worst of the storm, the hail ripped through parts of Burgundy's Côte d'Or and Côte Chalonnaise as well. But the Côte de Beaune was spared this year. Hail affected vineyards from northern Chambolle-Musigny to the southern part of Gevrey-Chambertin and parcels in Fixin and Marsannay.

Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac told Wine Spectator that hail damaged some of his grand cru parcels, including Bonnes Mares (10 to 15 percent grape loss), Clos St.-Denis (25 to 35 percent loss), Clos de la Roche (20 to 40 percent loss, depending on the zone), as well as Morey St.-Denis premiers crus Monts Luisants (30 to 40 percent) and Gevrey-Chambertin Combottes (20 to 30 percent). There was also minor damage in the surrounding vineyards.

Christophe Roumier, whose Domaine G. Roumier holdings are primarily in Chambolle-Musigny and Morey-St.-Denis, noted: "It is not disaster, but the same grapes that were looking just perfect look different today. The northern part of Chambolle-Musigny, as well as a large area in Morey-St.-Denis seems to have received the worst damages." He estimated he had lost 10 to 20 percent of his crop and faced the threat of mold if the end of August is humid.

In Marsannay, the southern part of the appellation was affected according to Cyril Audoin of Domaine Charles Audoin. Its parcels were damaged as much as 50 percent in the lieux-dits Au Champ Salomon, Clos de Jeu and Les Favières. Fixin grower Pierre Gelin said there was limited damage in his premier cru Clos Napoleon and Les Hervelets parcels, adding that "fortunately the nature is generous this year."

The Côte Chalonnaise witnessed more heavy rain than hail July 8, at least in Mercurey where Amaury Devillard and his family's Domaines Devillard are based. "[We had] very light damage, mostly on the leaves and not on bunches," he said.

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