telegraph.co.uk/ – David Chazan
27 MAY 2018
Hailstorms have devastated thousands of acres of prime Bordeaux vineyards, prompting the French government to promise support for winegrowers, some of whom have lost their entire crop.
Cyril Giresse, a winegrower, said hailstones “the size of pigeons’ eggs” destroyed grape buds and left vines bare on Saturday.
“The storm lasted only about 15 minutes, but in some places, there’s nothing left at all,” said Mr Giresse, who runs the Château Gravettes Samonac in Bordeaux’s Côtes de Bourg appellation. “No leaves, no grapes, just the vines stripped as if the grapes had all been picked.”
Jean-Dominique Château, another claret producer, said: “I’ve got nothing left. I’ve been growing grapes for 33 years and this is the worst storm I’ve ever seen. Last year we lost 40 per cent of our crop to hail but this year it’s going to be an even worse disaster.”
Stéphane Travert, the agriculture minister, said the government was assessing the extent of losses and would aid wine producers. “We’ll take the necessary measures and we’re ready to meet Bordeaux winemakers,” he said.
Franck Jullion, the head of the producers’ association in the “Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux” appellation, said: “It’s a desolate vista, as if the vines had gone back to winter. Estates hit by frost last year will not recover. We’re going to need a lot of support and solidarity.”
Saint-Emilion, one of the most prestigious Bordeaux appellations, was spared, but parts of Médoc were badly hit, as were Cognac brandy producers in the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments.
Didier Gontier, director of the Côtes de Bourg appellation, said: “Winegrowers say they’ve got no vines left for next year so this is going to affect two years of production.”
Bordeaux is France’s largest wine-growing area, with about 300,000 acres of vineyards producing more than 700 million bottles of claret a year, ranging from cheap table wines to some of the world’s most acclaimed and expensive vintages.
French wine and spirits exports amounted to more than £11 billion last year.
Wine industry leaders have opposed moves to tighten 1991 laws restricting alcohol advertising. President Emmanuel Macron has backed them, saying he drinks wine at lunch and dinner.
He has infuriated doctors by minimising public health concerns over wine and arguing that spirits and beer pose more of a problem because they are favoured by binge-drinkers.