Hailstorm decimates part of Côte des Bar vineyard

A powerful hailstorm hit the southern Côte des Bar region of Champagne last week (7 June) destroying this year’s grape crop and causing such severe damage to the vines it is estimated that a third of next year’s harvest will also be lost. The hail was concentrated in a band just to the south of Bar-sur-Aube and particularly hit the villages of Urville and neighbouring crus Bergères, Meurville, Baroville and Fontaine, an area comprising some 719 hectares of vineyard. The vast majority of these vineyards are planted with Pinot Noir (586 hectares) but there were also eight hectares of rare varieties like Arbanne and Petit Meslier affected.

In Urville, some 100 hectares of vineyard out of the 189 in the village were completely destroyed and will produce no grapes this year while there was around 50% damage in a further 50 hectares.  “One hundred hectares have been devastated just in Urville alone,” says Michel Drappier of the eponymous house, the largest in the region which is based in the village.

Michel Drappier in his vineyards in Urville

“The damage is estimated at 130% because at least 30% of the 2013 crop will also be affected,” says Drappier. “The rest of the coteaux has also suffered. According to the Services Techniques of the CIVC, who have visited our vineyards this morning (13th June), it is the third largest hail damage in the history of the Champagne region,” he says.

It all happened in the space of around 15 minutes and the villages of Meurville and Baroville had damage on a similar scale to Urville. The livelihoods of many growers are threatened, though fortunately most will have sufficient stock in their réserve individuelles to enable them to still produce around three quarters of the volume of champagne they made last year. However, using up all their reserve stock, as many will have to do, will leave them without any cover in the event of problems next year (in 2013). According to the CIVC the réserve individuelle across the appellation currently stands at an average of 8,185 kg/ha per producer.

“The Réserve Individuelle should cover, on average, the needs of the growers; the question is what about 2013? From today we have no more security stock in our cellars and each cloud passing by will be scrutinized closely. Here [at Drappier] we have sufficient stock and making a quality wine in 2012 will be no problem. But we will have to be careful with our sales and hold back some volume, especially for our Quattuor Blanc de Quatre Blancs which uses old varieties as we didn’t produce any in 2011 and won’t now be able to in either 2012 or 2013,” says Drappier.

The CIVC Services Techniques later reported that the area of vineyard in each village ‘affected’ by the hailstorm as follows:  Fontaine 100%; Baroville 97%; Bergères 100%; Meurville 74%; Urville 97%. They added all the vineyards in the villages of Bertignolles, Bragelogne-Beauvoir and Arconville were also hit by the same hailstorm, while those in Noé les Mallets, Saint Usage (98%) and Bligny (69%) were damaged to a lesser
extent.