Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Hailstorms Damage Cognac Vineyards

New reports suggest that the severe weather, especially hailstorms, that recently hit France have damage vineyard production in some of the country’s grape growing regions, most notably Cognac.

Weather and wine

A region’s ‘terroir’ is vital to its ability to produce good wine. Explaining this somewhat nebulous concept, a wine importer called Valerie was quoted by Scientific American saying: “Terroir is a specific set of natural elements that all come together in harmony to produce a very specific outcome. The soil, the exposure to the sun, the drainage, the proximity to water, the fog, all of these things, they all come together in an expression that we find beautifully in the grape.”

In other words, the weather a region experiences can dramatically impact its ability to produce wine. We saw in France recently, for instance, how frost can damage winemaking grapes. The French region of Burgundy was subjected to heavy frosts this spring and this damaged the opening buds and young shoots on many of its vines, ruining the quality of some of its grapes. Estimates suggest that 46% of Burgundy’s vineyards have been damaged by more than 30%.

Hailstorms hit Cognac

Reuters reports that France experienced another bout of extreme weather, including hailstorms, at the end of May, impacting grape harvests in Chablis, Beaujolais and most notably Cognac. Based in South-West France, Cognac is known for producing Cognac Brandy. Like Champagne, Cognac must be produced according to specific rules; for instance, all Cognacs must be made from high-acidity grapes like Ugni Blanc.

A spokeswoman for the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), the Cognac industry trade body, commented. She noted that an astonishing 27.5 millimetres of rain and almost 15 centimetres (cm) of hail dropped down on affected areas in just 15 minutes. Some wine producers, she continued, said that they saw hailstones that were 1.5cm long; roughly the size of a quail egg.

This had a devastating effect for Cognac producers. They have reported that 5,000 to 6,000 hectares, equating to 6% to 8% of their vineyards, were damaged badly by the showers and heavy hailstorms. Continuing, the spokeswoman said: “There are places where they have been 100% destroyed.”

It may be hard for grape growers in Cognac, Chablis and Beaujolais to recover. France’s biggest farming union, the Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d'Expoitants d'Agricoles, said in a statement that not only could this event restrict 2016 harvests, it could also impact future harvests. Explaining they noted: “These hail bursts ravaged many vineyards, making future harvests uncertain or impossible.”

Try our Cognac

We do not know for certain what kind of impact these hailstorms could have on Cognac production right now. Potentially however, they could damage the Cognac-making trade for years to come and that would be a huge loss, as Cognac is a brandy of the finest quality. If you want to see why so many people around the world have a passion for Cognac, purchase the Remy Martin XO Champagne Cognac from Ideal Company today, so you can sample this truly superior product!