Wine lovers will weep

May 13th, 2009

“Damage, major damage today in Aquitaine vineyards” – news carried like wildfire about hail the size of pigeon eggs.  “It was raining ice the size of 2 Euro coins”… or pingpong balls, depending on which report I read.  About sundown last night, violent hailstorms swept from Angoulême in the Charente across Cognac vineyards, with force enough to leave car roofs dappled with dents.  Some mighty pigeon eggs, I would say. The winds, lightning and hail swept across the Médoc north of Bordeaux, leaving vines in Margaux vineyards with barely a leaf intact.  Two phases of grapes, just in delicate first growth have been stripped from the vines across Blaye, Bourg, Fronsac, Entre-Deux-Mers, and St. Emilion.  Counting on 300 to 500 grapes per vine, winemakers are faced with less than 50 fruits per vine, but the leaves that should protect them from summer sun have been put through nature’s  shredder. Estimates of loss in some vineyards run between 70% and 100%.

The Gironde (now matched by the Hérault region in the Languedoc) is the largest wine-making region in France.  Damage wrought by the storm stretches south of Bordeaux into the Graves, Barsac and Sauternes region, about which I have recently been absorbed in research. When I heard an interview with the mayor of La Brède (yes, the home of the philosopher and winemaker, Montesquieu) in the Graves, the news struck a chord. These horages devastateurs not only compromise the harvest of 2009, but will have an impact on wines of 2010. The regional news’ apocalyptic images of bare vines in the Cognac region only reinforce the impact of this disaster for winemakers – and for wine lovers.

For more (in French) see: www.france-info.com/ or www.sudouest.com/charente/actualité, or www.aquitainemeteo.com

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