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Winemakers face bankruptcy following intense hailstorms in southwest France

31st May 2018 - Author: Charlie Wood

Winemakers in the Bordeaux and Cognac regions of southwest France are facing the prospect of bankruptcy after violent hailstorms inflicted extensive damage across hundreds of vineyards. Official sources estimate 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) out of a total 70,000 hectares were affected.

Credit: AFP/Georges Gobit

The impact of the storm on winemakers could lead to a jump in agricultural insurance claims from vineyards across the region.

This extreme weather activity follows a disastrous 2017 for producers across Bordeaux – France’s second-largest wine producing region – where frosts caused by spring temperatures of -3°C led to 39% loss of harvest and a financial toll of approximately €1.6 billion.

French wine prices rose 6% in the first six months of the 2017/18 season following the frosts, with Bordeaux posting a 16% price increase, farm ministry data showed.

The 15-minute, one-kilometre wide hailstorm first hit the south of the region on Saturday, hitting the Pessac-Leognan region and the south of Medoc before reaching Cotes de Bourg and Cotes de Blaye on the right bank of the Gironde river and, further east, in the Gensac and Pessac-sur-Dordogne. The vineyard of Cognac was also hit by hail.

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“The figures, which will have to be refined, show that between 500 and more than 1,000 wine growers have been affected with a area hit of 1,000 hectares in the Medoc, between 4,000 and 5,000 hectares for Cote de Blaye and Cote de Bourg and about 1,000 hectares in the vicinity of Gensac”, said Bernard Farges, head of Bordeaux producers’ union CIVB.

Frages added that some winemakers had lost 100 percent of their harvest.

Didier Gontier, head of the winegrowers association in the Cotes-de-Bourg area, has said the destruction could bankrupt some growers, particularly those badly affected by the heavy toll of 2017’s vintage.

Producers in the Côte des Bar area of Champagne have also been recovering from intense storm activity, after golf ball-sized hailstones ravaged nearly 500 hectares of vines nearly two weeks ago.

Brigitte Batonnet of Champagne producers’ group CIVC commented, “We already think more than 300 hectares were destroyed and that is without counting the storm we had a few days ago and the one forecast tonight.”

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