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WINE

‘Unprecedented’ hail storm destroys Bordeaux vineyards

Winemakers in western France in the famed Bordeaux and Cognac areas were inspecting damage to their vines on Sunday after an "unprecedented" storm saw pebble-sized hailstones cause widespread destruction.

'Unprecedented' hail storm destroys Bordeaux vineyards
Vines damaged and without leaves at a vineyard near Bordeaux following a violent storm in the region. Photo: AFP
The bad weather struck around midday on Saturday in the Gironde area where many of France's most well-known red wines originate, as well as further north in the Charente and Charente-Maritime regions.
 
   
“It's a shock, it was a hailstorm of unprecedented violence for 10 minutes,” the head of a winegrowers association in the Cotes-de-Bourg area, Didier Gontier, told Franceinfo radio on Sunday.
 
Photo: AFP
   
He said that an area of around 2,000 hectares had been affected which could bankrupt some growers, particularly those already affected by a late frost last year, he added.
 
   
The Côtes de Bourg, the Haut-Medoc and the Cotes de Blaye wine-growing areas were badly hit, local wine association the CIVB said, while vineyards used for cognac around the town of Jonzac were also damaged.
   
More details about the scale of the harm are expected early in the week.
 
Photo: AFP
   
Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert told parliament on Saturday that the government was looking into “what measures we can put in place and what support we can offer” to the industry.

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FARMING

Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts

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