Chablis Hail Curse

vineyard hail
Hail stones can be plentiful, ferocious & huge!

Having been in Meursault in Burgundy last June when we personally experienced the sheer ferocity of that hailstorm, as the end of the summer has approached, we’d hoped that perhaps Burgundy had broken the spell of their emerging annual ‘hail curse’. Sadly over Monday night and into Tuesday, Chablis, in northern quarter of Burgundy, was hit by a violent hailstorm that has reportedly destroyed around 100 hectares.

The vines that have been hailed upon need to be harvested from tomorrow until the end of the week to avoid the threat of rot,’ Michel Laroche, Domaine d’Henri, whose own vineyard was affected, told Decanter. ‘Happily they are already at good levels of maturity and the weather forecast for the rest of the week is fairly good, with a northerly wind that will help dry out the grapes.’

It’s early days to really know the true impact of this indiscriminate hailstorm, which has rampaged with abandon though AC as well as Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards alike. Emerging figures reckon it could be up around 10-15% and some Premier and Grand Cru sites have taken a particular battering. Worst affected areas appear to be Clos, Blanchot, Montée de Tonnerre,  Bréchain and Chapelot.

The rain, which persisted well into Tuesday afternoon, deluged the vineyards, even creating some land slides, at the worst possible time just before harvest. In a race against time, the vignerons of Chablis have chosen to advance the harvest by a few days in an effort to salvage what they can to avoid the real threat of grape rot. Wretched when the harvest was looking pretty promising.

“I don’t know what we’ll be able to save. There’s nothing we can do. Ten months of work for nothing,” Concepcion George of Domaine George told AFP

Hail stones were the size of golf balls and starting melting very quickly!

Chablis sits very northerly in Burgundy and has a cool continental climate, which means it’s prone to other meteorological conditions like frost. Not just winter but spring frost can be quite severe, but at least they have remedies ‘up their sleeve’ to reduce the impact. What are these? Sprinklers can be used to freeze water over the young grapes to protect them, smudge pots (think smoke bombs that the chimney sweep uses) which create a smoky blanket to retain the heat, and wind machines that whip up the wind to create air circulation which helps reduce frost as its that still air thats rather pesky – helicopters are ‘quick and fast’ mobile wind machines too funds permitting!

Argentina has a particular problem with hail and take the precautionary measure to protect their vines with netting. Whilst visually not as attractive, this emerging annual ‘hail curse’ may see the consideration of the same need in parts of Burgundy.

We hope the figures of the land and sites affected are indeed overstated and that the Chablis vignerons manage to still reap a good harvest. We wish them all the very best!



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