Burgundy crop at risk after 90% of vineyards are battered by hail

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The Independent Online

France's Burgundy wine region has been hit by storms that have damaged as much as 90 per cent of vines in growing areas, including Pommard and Volnay.

Strong winds, rain and hail this week ripped leaves from vines and caused grapes to burst, Cecile Mathiaud, a spokeswoman for the Burgundy Wine Board, said yesterday. Some vineyards were hit by flooding, she said, adding that it was too soon to predict the effect on the harvest.

"If you see the state of some plots, you can say it was violent," Ms 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 Cote de Beaune area from Meursault in Burgundy's south to Savigny-les-Beaune in the north suffered damage, Ms Mathiaud said. The region has France's most expensive wine real estate, with some grand cru properties fetching €3.8m (£3.3m) a hectare, according to Agriculture Ministry data.

The ministry this month forecast that Burgundy and Beaujolais appellation wine volume would jump 34 per cent to 2.31 million hectolitres (61 million gallons), recovering from a decrease last year that was caused by late frost, hail, disease and poor fruit set.

Pommard and its northern neighbour, Beaune, were the worst-hit appellations, Ms Mathiaud said. The damage affected 30 per cent to 70 per cent of vines in southern Pommard and 70 per cent to 90 per cent in the north. In Beaune, 10 per cent to 90 per cent of vines were affected, with no plot untouched, she said.

"Toward the side of Beaune, it's to cry about, especially the grand crus," Ms Mathiaud said of Pommard. The Les Epenots grand crus were among the hardest hit, she said.

Volnay was "very, very affected," with 30 per cent to 70 per cent of vines battered, according to Ms Mathiaud. Monthelie suffered damage to 20 per cent to 50 per cent of its vineyards, while the hail and wind affected between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of vines in Aloxe-Corton.

The weather damage will curb earnings for vintners, after hail pounded the area last year and drought cut production in 2011, Ms Mathiaud said. The Cote de Nuits growing area north of the city of Beaune was mostly spared, she said.

Burgundy: In numbers

150 appellations used in the region, including Beaujolais and Chablis

2009 last year that Burgundy saw a full-sized harvest

20% fall in per capita consumption of French wine in the 1990s

15 million bottles exported to US, the biggest export market by value for Burgundy, last year