Hail damage in Bordeaux

Bordeaux was hit by severe localised hailstorms last Saturday, 26 May. Bibendum buyer for Bordeaux, Robert Matthias, reports on the damage.

“The 2018 vintage started off very promisingly, but recent weeks have brought some slightly more dramatic weather. In April, for the Bordeaux Primeur Campaign, I noticed vine growth and progress around two weeks behind the 2017 vintage, when budbreak had already taken place. By comparison, for the 2017 vintage, the frosts on 27 April affected specific areas around Bordeaux, reducing yields across the whole appellation by roughly 40%. This had a specific effect on yields, although generally the quality and yields of the best terroirs were still very good.

“The 2018 vintage has been looking very promising, with warmer weather in May following the slow start in April. On 26 May, however, there was a 15-minute downpour of hail. This has affected some specific areas in Bordeaux, particularly Bourg and Blaye, while the majority of the region remained untouched.”

Sophie Balanger of Chateau Giraud in Sauternes says, “Bordeaux and the Charente were touched by a strong hailstorm on 26 May. Around 7,000 ha have been impacted, especially in the south of Medoc: Blanquefort and Macau, Blayais and Cote de Bourg. Unfortunately, it happened during floraison, so some vines are totally destroyed. It will be complicated to have something for the summer. We were lucky in Sauternes, where the hailstorm didn’t reach, and the 2018 vintage is looking very promising.” This means around 6% of the vineyard area had some damage and around 3% had extreme damage.

Robert also spoke to Bernince Gru of Chateau Gaby in Canon-Fronsac, who explained that although they themselves were not affected, lots of properties not far from Fronsac had lost their production or a part of their production. “No leaves and no flowers, so no wine for this year and for next year,” she says. “Vines will not be at their full capacity of production because of the hail and will require a couple of years for proper regeneration.”

Chateau La Lagune of the Haut-Medoc has recorded damage of around 15-20% and nearby Chateau Cantemerle of Macau reported damage of up to 40%, according to Bertrand Michat. Some vines around Martillac also suffered damage, with Smith Haut Lafitte reporting fairly significant damage to their white grapes.

Fabrice Dubourdieu, son of Denis Dubourdieu, says, “The potential production is high so far. Floraison started in our earliest Merlot at Chateau Reynon and if all goes well, we may have rather high volumes for the 2018 vintage. Thankfully our vineyards haven't been affected by last week’s hail storm.”

Despite localised damage, quality of growth and yield potential remains very promising for the approaching 2018 vintage.

After graduating with a degree in Music from the University of Cambridge, Robert felt suitably qualified to join the world of wine. Working with Bibendum for over four years now, Robert looks after the buying for France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Eastern Europe, Lebanon, China and Sake. He is currently studying for his Master of Wine qualification.