Hailstorms in Burgundy

Burgundy generally has cold winters, warm summers, and precipitation around the year. The historical weather data reveals that the region used to have less storms.  However, with the turn of the 21st century, Burgundy and the surrounding regions have witnessed an increase in devastating hailstorms. In July 2012, there was a very quick but very violent hailstorm. Hail the size of large marbles came crashing down in parts of Cote d’Or. The hail quickly turned into heavy rain, which ended up flooding several cellars. The following year, on July 23, 2013, a colossal hailstorm wreaked havoc in parts of the Burgundy region. An area in the sub-region of Beaune, including several of some of the most prestigious wine-making villages in the area, was hit.

A winemaker in the Côte de Beaune, a subregion of Burgundy said this about the hailstorm, “I’ve lost more than 50% of my total crop for this year. Emotionally, we’ve got to carry on. We’ve put so much work into it. But the mood in the village is not good at all. A lot of people are very concerned. It’s two years in a row that major hailstorms have hit the area. The economic conditions in France were already not that good. This doesn’t help.”

How Hailstorms Affect Wine Production

Winemakers in Burgundy have now had years of low grape production. Both 2010 and 2011 were bad years resulting in low yields, and right after 2012 and now 2013, there were big hail storms. Producers hoped the 2013 vintage would be different. As a result, the 2013 vintage, set to be released in 2015 and 2016 will be smaller in quantity, making it rare. The price will increase as a result, and it will be even harder to meet the demands of clients.

The worst hit areas included Pommard and Volnay, known for their famous wines and vineyards. Extreme measures are being discussed to protect crops from future hail catastrophes. One technique suggested the use of cannons that fire silver iodide into the air to break up the hail, turning it into rain.

However, this technique poses serious issues: a significant volume of iodide is needed for this, and an advanced warning system is required so that the cannons can be released at the exact time and location. Another technique suggested the use of nets above the crops. However, it was observed that the hail will eventually break the netting and damage the plants.

There is a glimmer of hope, though. While hail can lead to damage and mildew, it is still early enough in the season to recover some of the grapes. Additionally, Jasper Morris, Burgundy director at wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd, reported to The Guardian that, “Four or five villages have all suffered. Some of them produce some pretty prestigious wines that may sell at £50 a bottle retail. It will affect this year’s crop.” He also said the following, “Locally, this is a disaster. In the industry as a whole it’s bad news, but it’s not catastrophic. Overall there will be huge parts of Burgundy that haven’t been touched. But in villages such as Pommard or Beaune it’s very serious. The real problem is that this is the second year in a row.” Grapes experts at the time suggested that the damaged grapes will dry out and fall off or will be removed by destemmers when it is time to harvest.

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  1. BILLN. (2012, July 2). hail in the côtes. Retrieved from Burgundy Report: https://www.burgundy-report.com/2012/07/hail-in-the-cotes/
  2. Chrisafis, A. (2013, Jul 24). Burgundy’s prestigous vineyards in crisis after devastating hailstorms. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/24/burgundy-vineyards-crisis-devastating-hailstorms
  3. Hills, S. (2013, Aug 10). Freak hail the size of ‘eggs’ destroys crops in Bordeaux weeks after storms wrecked 90 per cent of Burgundy’s vineyards. Retrieved from Daily Mail: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2388623/Freak-hail-size-eggs-destroys-crops-Bordeaux-weeks-90-Burgundys-vineyards-wrecked.html
  4. Sanderson, B. (2013, July 25). Hail Rips Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune Region. Retrieved from Wine Spectator: https://www.winespectator.com/articles/hail-rips-burgundys-cote-de-beaune-region-48707
  5. theguardian.com. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/09/bordeaux-wine-vineyards-hailstorms-damage (accessed July 10, 2022).

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