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Montalcino Vineyards Damaged by Hail on Cusp of Harvest

Castello Banfi is among Brunello producers to suffer losses in freak pre-harvest hailstorm

Jo Cooke
Posted: August 27, 2008

A severe hailstorm ripped through the southern area of Montalcino, home of one of Tuscany's top reds, Brunello di Montalcino, at around 4 p.m. local time Aug. 15, causing severe damage in many vineyards along its path.

The hailstorm, which lasted about seven minutes, moved from west to east, driven by fierce winds, hitting the area between the villages of Sant'Angelo Scalo, Sant'Angelo in Colle and Castelnuovo dell'Abate. Other areas of Montalcino were unaffected.

"It was the worst storm I have ever seen here," said Paolo Bianchini, owner of Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona, a top Brunello producer in Castelnuovo dell'Abate. "The hail took the form of shards of ice, rather than the usual pellet shape. The wind was like a mini-hurricane."

Bianchini said that the hail stripped the vines of leaves and punctured grapes in around 5 acres of Sangiovese vineyards and damaged up to 40 percent of his Merlot and Syrah vineyards.

American-owned Castello Banfi, located a few miles west of Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona, at Sant'Angelo Scalo, reported damage in around 35 acres of Sangiovese vineyards and around 50 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah vineyards. Banfi is the largest Brunello-producing estate in Montalcino.

"Luckily, the storm missed the heart of the estate," said Banfi general manager Enrico Viglierchio, "and we should be able to harvest something from the damaged vineyards for our entry-level wines."

According to Bianchini, hail in the area is rare so late in the growing season, when the grapes are finishing the ripening process, but it does give affected producers the chance to salvage at least some of the damaged crop.

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