A violent hailstorm on July 23 wiped out a big portion of the Côte-d'Or in Burgundy, according to the newspaper Le Monde. "The section between Beaune and Pommard is the most touched, with 90% loss, and the hills between Pommard and Volnay with 70%," the paper quotes Jean-Louis Moissenet, president of the Winemakers Syndicate of Pommard, as saying.
Then last week, hailstorms battered southern Alsace vineyards, with up to 60% losses, according to the British wine magazine Decanter. Some hailstones reportedly were the size of ping-pong balls, wreaking havoc on vines.
"Hardest hit were vineyards along the plains of Turckheim and Colmar," Paul McKirdy, cellarmaster at Zind-Humbrecht, told reporter Panos Kakaviatos. Grand Cru vineyards on the slopes -- such as Zind-Humbrecht's famous "Brand" vineyard, which suffered about 20% loss -- were less affected.
In Bordeaux, a series of storms starting in late July has chateaus in the Médoc scrambling to repair damage to roofs, trees and vineyards. The hail was capricious, damaging some estates, sparing others.
Wine Spectator reported that on Aug. 2, during the second storm in a week, "almost 30,000 acres of vines in the Entre-Deux-Mers, St.-Emilion and Castillon regions were damaged, half almost completely, in a hailstorm that lasted just minutes. Vines were stripped bare of leaves and grapes, the wood shredded."
Total losses are estimated to be more than $133 million in an early tally, Wine Spectator reported. Devastating, when you consider that so many wineries, especially the smaller ones, are already in difficult straits. Wine producers there are pushing for disaster relief.
According to the region's Sud Ouest newspaper, the vineyards most affected were the smaller appellations -- bordeaux supérieur, entre-deux-mers, côtes-de-castillon, where wines cost between 2 euros (about $2.65) wholesale to 7 euros retail. There, the effects of the hailstorm will be felt not just for this harvest but for years after.