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La Clape Vineyards the Latest Hail Victims

La Clape Vineyards the Latest Hail Victims
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A 45 minute hailstorm has caused widespread damage to the vineyards of La Clape.

Last week’s weather woes continued for French vineyards with hailstorms moving to the South of France last Friday evening.

A violent and long-lasting hailstorm caused devastation in the vineyards of La Clape, sweeping in from the Mediterranean Sea. Hailstones the size of peach stones battered an area between the towns of Narbonne and Gruissan. Most affected was the district of Ricardelle.

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At the 38-hectare (94-acre) estate of Château Ricardelle, the vineyards were almost entirely destroyed. Director Thomas Nègre said on the regional TV program France 3 that the 45 minutes of non-stop hail battering the vineyards was “catastrophic”. The nearby Domaine Ricardelle was also badly affected and also suffered structural damage to buildings caused by the storm.

Members of La Cave de Gruissan, a cooperative cellar established in 1947 that today consists of 80 growers owning 330ha (815 acres), reported extensive damage to around 50ha (125 acres) of vineyards belonging to 15 members.

The vines have just finished flowering and both the baby bunches of grapes and the leaves were battered and torn, meaning little or no crop in 2014 from the affected vineyards. Growers will have to work extra hard to ensure that damage to the vines’ woody parts and buds for next year’s growth is contained, otherwise disease may set in and the 2015 vintage would also be endangered.

Overall, it appears that around 250ha (620 acres) of vineyards in the western sector of the sub-appellation Coteaux de Languedoc La Clape were affected. 

Hail is a rare occurrence in this region, so few producers have insurance. The appellation president, Christophe Bousquet, owner of Château Pech-Redon, who had 10ha out of 30 destroyed, is pushing for local authorities to declare an official natural disaster so that some government aid will be forthcoming.

A week ago, violent hailstorms tore through vineyards in northern Bordeaux and Cognac, wreaking havoc. Last year, hail cost growers in Bordeaux an estimated $278 million. Growers protested earlier this year when local and national government aid packages amounted to $34m.

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