there, but for the grace, and projecting a harvest date…


hailTruly awful hail hit southern France on Wednesday afternoon – there were similar storms in Switzerland too where the ground turned green-white – a mix of shredded foliage and hailstones. Over 1,000 hectares were ‘touched’ in the Languedoc-Roussillon, including most of Pic Saint-Loup. Judging by some of the images, there may not be anything to properly prune for 2017 – i.e. there may also be no grapes next year!

This time, at-least, greater Burgundy was spared, though anything can still happen between now and harvest time. Talking of harvest time, and based on the current state of veraison, it looks like the reds may be ready for picking from the 26 September – of-course some producers habitually wait longer. Usually the whites are picked 7-10 days before the reds, but there are some indications that this year it may only be 1-3 days before the reds. Let’s see!

Yesterday I did a little tour in Beaujolais. The big hail event for them was largely in the crus, little in the south of Beaujolais was touched; Mainly it was the area between Morgon and Fleurie, plus Chiroubles and some Juliennas. These vines were largely stripped of all growth in late May, but the rain that came with the hail was so hard, that afterwards, there was no shredded vegetation to be seen on the slopes – it had all been washed down the drains. Today they have recovered well and look quite healthy, despite being only half the size of usual for the time of year – but, unsurprisingly, I spotted only one bunch of grapes per 8 or 9 vines. It was also easy to see the impact of large hail projectiles on all the hard-wood parts of the vines!!

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

There is one response to “there, but for the grace, and projecting a harvest date…”

  1. Your photos are, excellent, as usual, though tragic, but didactic for those of who have never seen such devastation

    Historically, when the vines, in view of their verdant growth (recovery?) following hail, I would , of course, expect very smorehort harvest, but is it worthwhile to even try to harvest such a short crop, when table selection would, by necssity, in be very capital & labor intensive.

    Are there any particular chacteristics of the wines made in such harvests? Not being a businessman, I do not know whether crop or vine insurance is available, &/or affordable to the vignerons? Do they just abandon all thought of harvest, or forge ahead for whatever can be salvaged?

    Thank you,

    Brian M. Dorsk, M,D,
    37 Concord. Place
    Cape Elizabeth, Maine 04107.

    • billn20th August 2016 at 10:21 amPermalinkReply

      Hi Brian
      Less than 10 hectolitres per hectare is borderline economic when taking into account the variable costs for an average domaine – few can charge €200+ a bottle to compensate. At about 5 hl/ha it is usually family/friends that harvest on a weekend – for the fun – when there’s less yield, there’s no point. I only say ‘no point’ because it takes a big vineyard to find enough fruit to make even one barrel.
      Insurance is available, and is calculated on the % loss – normally you need to have lost at least 25% before any payment will be due, and the level of payment will depend on the size of the premium paid – but the maximum payout is no more than the trade price of the grapes, not a finished bottle of wine. Insurance is not mandatory, and for low priced regions – here I would include Languedoc and Beaujolais – the relative number of producer who take out such insurance will not be the highest…
      Whether you get to taste hail – it’s more a textural roughness than an actual taste – will depend on when the hail comes. If it’s ‘early’ – say the first half of the grape maturing cycle – there is time for the affected grapes to dry out, drop to the ground or be easily triaged – like in the Côte de Beaune 2012-2014. If the hail comes just a few days before harvest – like in Chablis last year – you can attack directly and harvest everything, sacrificing maybe half a degree of ripeness, but if you are quick, that will be the only effect as the harvest won’t have time to begin to oxidise. If the hail comes 3 weeks before the harvest, it’s possible that neither of the above hold true – it will be terrible to triage and will also attract rot, and it’s likely that the wines will have the rougher taste.

      Of-course the above three examples assume that the hail left something to harvest. The pocket of vines between between Morgon and Fleurie, with maximum 1 cluster per 10 vines (6-8 clusters per vine would be typical) effectively means that there’s nothing to harvest.

      Best, Bill
      PS The hail pic wasn’t mine – rather taken by a producer in the region.

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