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The Cote de Beaune suffers yet again from the horrors of hail


The rolling hills of the Cote de Beaune is one of the worlds most picturesque vineyard scenes. On a lovely sunny August day overlooking the 1er Cru vineyards of Volnay and Meursault it is almost impossible to imagine their vulnerability that they have to the vagaries of the weather. On the one hand whilst it is these hills and unique position that allow such famous vineyards as Champans, Clos des Ducs in Volnay and Epenots in Pommard to make some of the greatest wines in the world, on the other it makes them the most precarious and susceptible to adverse westerly weather conditions being the first in the cote d’Or to receive changeable weather most commonly in the form of severe and harsh rain and at its very worst hail.

So it was on the 23rd of July, for the 2nd year in a row the vineyards of Meursault, Volnay Pommard and Savigny Les Beaune were ravaged by one of the severest hailstorms imaginable. Reports of hail stones the size of golf balls battered the vines for almost 2 hours, decimating the forthcoming 2013 crop and ruining 10 months of hard vigneron toil in the vineyards. As Jean-Pierre Charlot of Domaine Voillot said “It is so demoralising to be hit yet again having lost over half our crop in 2012 to hail and following all the hard work we have done to recuperate our vines up to this point we were all looking forward to a well earned holiday, which is no longer the case”. In Meursault the idea of a summer holiday is long forgotten at Domaine Fichet, Jean-Philippe’s day starts even earlier than usual at 4.00 am as the sun rises to make the most of every day light hour to correct the broken vines and avoid risks of any forthcoming “maladies” that might arise as a result.

Yesterday, Gilles de Courcel in Pommard has said that since the storm the past three weeks of good weather have helped the vines recover as well as possible but yet again the harvest will be very small indeed. In 2012 Volany suffered more than Pommard in 2013 it is the other way round, with some growers suggesting that they may have lost their entire crop in 1er Cru Pezerolles and as much as 80% in Epenots. Yields in Volnay will be down between 20-40% depending on the vineyard and it is a similar story in Meursault. It is a stark reminder that wine is very much an agricultural crop and it is the extraordinary weather conditions that provide unique characteristics to an individual vintage.

As always our thoughts are very much with all our growers who have been affected and we can only hope that the weather is kinder for the rest of the season up to harvest time so that what little crop they may have , will be of the very highest quality. In that we send our very best wishes to all the vignerons of the Cote d’Or.