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Storms Rage Across France

Storms Rage Across France
© AFP
More misery for French grape growers as hailstones "the size of prunes" hit vineyards.

The weather gods continued their assault on France over the weekend, with fierce storms hitting the country from Bordeaux to the Belgian border.

Just days after some of Burgundy’s most prestigious vineyards were ravaged by hail and torrential rain, thousands of residents in Champagne, Bordeaux and the Languedoc were left without power over the weekend after severe storms late on Friday night and the early hours of Saturday morning.

In Champagne, hail has split berries and shredded leaves, roads are flooded, and the sails of iconic Verzenay windmill, owned by Champagne house G.H.Mumm, have also been damaged.

Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, chef de caves at Louis Roederer, estimated that as many as 20 percent of the grapes in the village of Cramant have been destroyed by hail.

Winds of up to 165 kilometers (102 miles) per hour were recorded in the Médoc town of Pauillac, home to estates including Château Lafite-Rothschild and Château Latour. While the town's clock tower was destroyed, Bernard Farges, director of the Bordeaux Wine Council, the CIVB, reported that the region's vineyards had escaped with “no dramatic” damage.

However, vineyards around the town of Libourne, close to Saintmilion, appear to have been badly affected. Television station France 3 has reported that growers in Genissac, 8 kilometers (5 miles) south of Libourne, have lost as much as 70 percent of their crop. Nearby Fronsac and Lalande de Pomerol have also suffered. While producers are still assessing the damage, local grower Jean Trocat said: “I have never seen such big hailstones – they were the size of prunes,”

In Cognac, “several rows of vines have been destroyed but there is no big disaster,” explained Jean-Philippe Painturaud, a grower in Segonzac and organizer of the Fête du Cognac.

In the wake of Tuesday’s downpour in Burgundy, the French government has given a provisional estimate of the damage. Between 1,700 and 2,000 hectares were affected – 35 to 40 percent of the Côte de Beaune’s vineyards.

The French ministry of agriculture has agreed to help Burgundy wine growers affected by hail and floods. Struggling growers will be able to apply for tax relief plus health and social support, the ministry announced on Friday.

In addition, the government will undertake “an assessment of the damages, which will evaluate the impact on farms affected and the emergency measures needed.”

Related stories:

Cote de Beaune Ravaged By Storm

Politician Chases Aid For Storm-Hit Burgundians

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