Assessing the Impact of a Severe Hailstorm on Chablis Wineries

By | 11 May 2024

A severe hailstorm struck the Chablis area in northern Burgundy early in May, sparking worries about potential harm to the vineyards.

Several producers voiced to French news institutions that the barrage of frosty hailstones on the evening of May 1st had drastically affected them.

The weather agency Météo France reported that aggressive ‘supercell’ storms impacted distinct regions of France and initiated in northern Burgundy, bringing intense hail to specific areas, especially Chablis.

They established that some of the hailstones were about 4cm and 5cm in diameter, equating them roughly to the size of a ping-pong ball.

While the full extent of vineyard damage was still unclear, there were reports of hail slicing through leaves and damaging vine plants, which are still in the relatively early stages of the 2024 growing season.

Catherine Poitout, of L&C Poitout, told France 3 that the area around Beine was completely white after being carpeted with hailstones. ‘It could have been the middle of winter, in the mountains,’ she said.

Burgundy’s regional wine council, the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB), said on X – formerly Twitter – that it stood in solidarity with wine growers affected.

A BIVB spokesperson said that some areas were hit harder than others. Early reports suggested Chablis grand cru climats Vaumur, Vaudésir, Moutonne and Preuses were among the worst-hit sites, according to the BIVB.

Elsewhere, communes most affected were:

The BIVB spokesperson said that around one sixth of Chablis vineyards were thought to have been ‘severely hit but not completely destroyed’, adding damage may not be as bad as first feared in certain places.

Damage was still being assessed and the BIVB said it was working on a more complete report of the situation.

Christian Moreau, of Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils, told Decanter that the Chablis appellation covers 5,866 hectares (ha) and that around 500ha may have lost between 20% and 30% of the potential 2024 crop, while other areas saw no damage at all.

On top of that, other vineyards may have sustained damage up to 100%, he said, again commenting on the picture across the appellation as a whole. But, he added the situation should become clearer in the next couple of weeks.

‘Now we just need some warm weather,’ he said.

French agriculture minister Marc Fesneau offered his support to Chablis winemakers, adding that the government would look into ways of supporting growers.

Hailstorms have affected winemakers in Burgundy several times in the past, and in other regions around the world, too. Their ferocious nature means that significant damage can be caused in a matter of minutes.

About a year ago, hailstorms provoked worry in Provence while tempests traversed the southern French region.

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