The Burgundy wine region in eastern France was hit by storms yesterday that damaged as much as 90 percent of vines in growing areas including Pommard and Volnay.
Strong winds, rain and hail around 4 p.m. local time ripped leaves from vines and destroyed grapes, Cecile Mathiaud, spokeswoman for the Burgundy Wine Board, said today by phone. Some vineyards were hit by flooding, she said, adding that it’s too soon to predict the effect on the grape harvest.
“It’s just misery,” said Jasper Morris, Burgundy director at wine merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd, which has operated from the same London store since 1698. “Some people could go out of business. These guys are working 365 days a year for one harvest to produce something magical, and in a space of two hours, they can lose the lot.”
In Burgundy’s Cote de Beaune area, vineyards from Meursault in the south to Savigny-les-Beaune in the north were damaged, Mathiaud said. The region has France’s most expensive wine real estate, with some grand cru properties fetching 3.8 million euros ($5 million) a hectare (2.47 acres), according to the Agriculture Ministry.
“If you see the state of some plots, you can say it was violent,” Mathiaud said. “If the grapes burst open, you can’t harvest. If leaves are damaged, it depends how many remained to protect the grapes.”
The ministry this month forecast Burgundy and Beaujolais appellation wine volume would jump 34 percent to 2.31 million hectolitres (61 million gallons), recovering from a 30 percent slump last year caused by late frost, hail, disease and poor fruit set.
Burgundy production last year fell about 20 percent below average, according to the wine board. The region hasn’t had a “full-sized” harvest since 2009, said Morris, who was in the area yesterday when the storms hit.
“For the really sought-after wines, this is going to maintain extreme pressure on prices,” he said. “It reinforces the shortage.”
Pommard and northern neighbor Beaune were the worst-hit appellations, Mathiaud said. Damage affected 30 percent to 70 percent of vines in southern Pommard and 70 percent to 90 percent in the north. In Beaune, 10 percent to 90 percent of vines were hurt, with no plot left untouched, she said.
“Toward the side of Beaune, it’s to cry about,” Mathiaud said of Pommard. The Les Epenots premier crus were among the hardest hit, she said.
Volnay was “very, very affected,” with 30 percent to 70 percent of vines battered, according to the spokeswoman. Monthelie suffered damage to 20 percent to 50 percent of its vineyards, while hail and wind hurt 30 percent to 50 percent of vines in Aloxe-Corton.
The road between Pommard and Volnay was flooded yesterday by torrents of mud running from vineyards, winemaker Jean Yves Devevey wrote on his blog today, describing hailstones the size of marbles and ping-pong balls. He estimated losses in his Beaune vineyard at 70 percent to 80 percent.
The weather damage will curb earnings for vintners, after hail pounded the area last year and drought cut production in 2011, Mathiaud said. The Cote de Nuits growing area north of the city of Beaune was mostly spared, she said.
Thunderstorms may strike again today around 5 p.m., with a risk of hail, the spokeswoman said, citing weather forecasts. The region, with maximum temperatures of about 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Fahrenheit) today, had been spared new storms as of 4 p.m., Meteo France wrote in a weather alert.
“With this extreme heat, the storms have been building up,” said Morris at Berry Bros. & Rudd. “We know what happened yesterday, but there is a likelihood of further storms over the next 10 to 14 days.”