Burgundy, a region in eastern France, is globally renowned for its wine production. The region’s climate, characterized by cold winters, warm summers, and precipitation throughout the year, has historically been conducive to grape cultivation. However, recent years have seen a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of hailstorms, posing serious challenges to the wine industry. This article will discuss the impact of hailstorms on Burgundy’s wine production, including the challenges faced by winemakers and potential solutions to protect the crops.

The Rise of Hailstorms in Burgundy

Historical weather data indicates that hailstorms were less frequent in Burgundy in the past. However, since the turn of the 21st century, the region has experienced an alarming increase in hailstorms. In July 2012, a sudden and violent hailstorm struck parts of Cote d’Or, causing extensive damage. Large, marble-sized hailstones quickly turned into heavy rain, flooding several cellars in the process.

The following year, on July 23, 2013, another massive hailstorm devastated parts of the Burgundy region, particularly affecting the sub-region of Beaune, which is home to several prestigious wine-making villages. The impact of these hailstorms has been significant, with many winemakers losing over 50% of their total crop.

Impact on Wine Production

The increase in hailstorms has severely affected wine production in Burgundy. Low grape yields were already an issue in 2010 and 2011, and the hailstorms of 2012 and 2013 only exacerbated the situation. As a result, the 2013 vintage, set to be released in 2015 and 2016, will be smaller in quantity, making it rare and driving up prices. The worst-hit areas include Pommard and Volnay, both renowned for their high-quality wines and vineyards.

Potential Solutions

In response to the growing threat of hailstorms, winemakers and industry experts have been exploring various strategies to protect crops. One potential solution involves the use of cannons that fire silver iodide into the air to break up hailstones and turn them into rain. However, this method poses several challenges, including the need for a significant amount of iodide and an advanced warning system to accurately target the hailstorms.

Another option is the use of protective nets to cover the crops. While this may initially seem like a viable solution, it has been observed that hailstones can eventually break the netting and damage the plants.

Hope for Recovery

Despite the challenges posed by hailstorms, there is still hope for the recovery of the wine industry in Burgundy. The timing of the storms has allowed some grapes to recover, and damaged grapes can be removed during the harvesting process. Furthermore, large areas of Burgundy remain unaffected by the hailstorms, ensuring that the region’s wine production will continue.

The increasing frequency of hailstorms in Burgundy poses a significant threat to the region’s wine industry. As these storms continue to impact grape production and overall yield, it is crucial for winemakers and industry experts to explore innovative solutions to protect crops and secure the future of Burgundy’s wine production.

Want to read more? Try these books!

Burgundy (Guides to Wines and Top Vineyards) The Wines of Burgundy by Clive Coates M. W.

References

  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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