Hailstorms badly damage French vineyards, mainly Cognac

PARIS: Severe weather, including hailstorms, caused serious damage at the weekend in some French wine-producing regions, notably Cognac where up to 8 percent of the vineyard has been badly damaged, producers said on Monday.

Other regions hard hit where Chablis and Beaujolais.

"These hail bursts ravaged many vineyards, making future harvests uncertain or impossible," FNSEA, France's largest farm union, said in a statement.

Cognac producers say 5,000 to 6,000 hectares (12,400 to 14,800 acres), amounting to 6-8 percent of the vineyard, were badly damaged by hailstones and heavy showers on Friday evening.

"There are places were they have been 100 percent destroyed," a spokeswoman for Cognac producers' group BNIC said.

Some 27.5 millimetres (1.1 inches) of rain and nearly 15 centimetres (5.9 inches) of hail fell in 15 minutes on affected areas, she said. Some wine producers reported hailstones the size of a quail egg, or about 1.5 centimetres long.

BNIC was holding a meeting later in the day to discuss damage and impact on output in more detail.

In Burgundy, hailstorms and rainfall that followed on the night of Friday to Saturday damaged about 600 hectares, mainly in the southwest of Chablis - by far the largest vineyard in Burgundy - and in Auxerrois, a spokeswoman for Burgundy wine group BIVB said.

"For Chablis it is most difficult because it is the third blow this year after frosts late April, a hailstorm on April 13 and now this one," she said.

Burgundy has around 29,000 hectares of vines.

In the Beaujolais region, known for its popular Beaujolais nouveau, about 1,000 hectares or 6 percent of the vineyard has been hit by the storms but the jury was still out on precise damage to the vines.

"Where the storm passed it was very violent," a spokeswoman for wine group Inter Beaujolais said. "It chopped vines and ground leaves."

The storms will reduce the 2016 harvest but also have an impact on future harvests in all three regions.

FNSEA called on the government to provide support for producers affected by the damage.