French Vineyards Sustain Significant Storm Damage

Severe storm systems striking French vineyards in some coastal regions during the months of April and May have destroyed an estimated 3% of the grape harvest in some impacted communities, according to the Independent, a British news website. Producers anticipate existing stockpiles of sparkling wines will prevent scarcity from developing. However, the adverse weather has further reduced a commodity already affected by severe autumn frosts during 2016 and 2017.

Unexpected May Storms Produce Havoc

The most recent hail damage occurred during the final weekend in May. On Saturday, May 26 a sudden downpour of large hailstones destroyed the grape harvest across thousands of acres in Bordeaux in far southwestern France. The weather system moved north of the Gironde Rive to also cause damage outside Cognac. More hailstorms arrived on Sunday to produce damage to vineyards in Champagne.

A vintner named Pierre-Henry Cosyns told the Weather Channel large hail damaged the plants in local vineyards. He noted some ice remained visible on the ground even a day later, and characterized the event as "unprecedented."

The French Government Responds

In the wake of the damage, government officials in France reportedly discussed taking steps to assist the nation's wine industry. The Minister of Agriculture recently updated French legislators about these measures. The topic has become a sensitive one in France this year.

In March, some vineyard owners conducted public protests to complain about the low level of financial assistance they had received from the French government following hailstorms that struck the Cognac area late last summer. The French government had dispensed the equivalent of some $6.75 million dollars in emergency assistance to grape growers following the 2017 hail damage. Many agricultural producers view the amount as insufficient.

Other Storm-Related Losses

The hailstorms in late May, 2018 damaged some young grape plants so severely producers reportedly surmise the plants won't generate a crop next year either. (Not surprising considering the plants won't have matured by then, of course). After the storm, three local wineries in Bordeaux reportedly sought help from emergency services as they contended with flood wine cellars.

Sadly, the same storm system which caused such significant economic losses in Bordeaux in late May also took a human life. The weather system reportedly caused a tree limb to fall to the ground, striking and fatally injuring a 6-year old outside the community of Rennes.

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