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Published: Thursday, July 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Hail stomps French grape crop

PARIS -- France's Burgundy wine region was hit by storms Tuesday that damaged as much as 90 percent of vines in growing areas including Pommard and Volnay.
Strong winds, rain and hail around 4 p.m. local time ripped leaves from vines and caused grapes to burst, Cecile Mathiaud, spokeswoman for the Burgundy Wine Board, said Wednesday. Some vineyards were hit by flooding, she said, adding that it's too soon to predict the effect on the grape harvest.
"If you see the state of some plots, you can say it was violent," 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, Mathiaud said. The region has France's most expensive wine real estate, with some grand cru properties fetching $5 million for 2.47 acres, Agriculture Ministry data show.
The ministry this month forecast Burgundy and Beaujolais appellation wine volume would jump 34 percent to 61 million gallons, recovering from a drop last year caused by late frost, hail, disease and poor fruit set.
Pommard and northern neighbor Beaune were the worst-hit appellations, according to the spokeswoman. Damage affected 30 percent to 70 percent of vines in southern Pommard and 70 percent to 90 percent in the north. In Beaune, 10 percent to 90 percent of vines were hurt, with no plot untouched, she said.
"Toward the side of Beaune, it's to cry about, especially the grand crus," Mathiaud said of Pommard. The Les Epenots grand crus were among the hardest hit, she said.
Volnay was "very, very affected," with 30 percent to 70 percent of vines battered, according to the spokeswoman. Monthelie suffered damage to 20 percent to 50 percent of its vineyards, while hail and wind hurt 30 percent to 50 percent 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, Mathiaud said. The Cote de Nuits growing area north of the city of Beaune was mostly spared, according to Mathiaud.
Story tags » Wine

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