Wine growers call for aid with more storms due

Wine growers in Bordeaux held an emergency meeting on Monday after thousands of acres of vineyards were destroyed in hail storms. With more extreme weather forecast, there could be worse news for Bordeaux and Burgundy vineyard-owners.

Wine growers call for aid with more storms due
Vineyards in both Bordeaux and Burgundy have been hit by hailstorms this summer. Photo: Nicolas Tucat/AFP

The year 2013 may not be a good vintage for French wine.

While most of France has been enjoying the summer weather, wine growers across the country have been left counting the costs after hail storms ravaged their crop.

And with 21 departments, including those around Bordeaux, the Loire Valley and Burgundy on storm alert, there may be worse still to come.

Earlier this summer some of Burgundy’s most prestigious vines including Pommard were destroyed by hail stones for the second year running.

And last weekend it was the turn of vineyards in Bordeaux to take a battering from the extreme weather, as hail storms destroyed an estimated 7,000 hectares of vines.

In all, 37, 000 hectares suffered varying degrees of damage.

The wine growers around Entre-deux-Mers were the hardest hit, with between 300 and 400 vineyard owners affected.

The cost of the damage has been estimated to be around €4,000 a hectare, and there are fears there will be knock-on effects including job losses.

To make matters worse, not all winegrowers were insured against the damage by hail.

One of those, Loic Roquefeuil from St Leon, lost 30 hectares of vines.

“There is nothing. It is frightening. With 200,000 bottles at €3 a piece, the loss is huge,” he told AFP.

Wine growers held an emergency summit with local officials on Monday to call for compensation and measures to be taken to soften the blow.

On Tuesday, the prefecture of the Gironde region announced that they would buy up harvests, offer exemptions from property taxes on undeveloped land as well help with VAT and social security payments to those affected.

Access to the state’s agriculture disaster fund will also be offered to those worst affected.

“The government is conducting an initial assessment of the damage, in order to draw up a balance sheet as soon as possible,” the Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement on Monday night.

On Monday the hail storms were back, this time causing widespread damage over the Loire region in the centre of France.

The Loire is one of 21 departments on “Orange Alert” for storms on Tuesday as well as much of the south west and regions further north including Burgundy (see map below).

According to French weather site La Chaine Météo, the storms will be violent and marked by heavy downpours, lightning and gales of up to 100km/h.

Photo: Météo France/Screengrab

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Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.