Freak Storms Devastate Bordeaux Vineyards

Bordeaux has just experienced two of the most dramatic storms in recent memory, with the first storm wreaking havoc in the Médoc. This left many of the famous willow trees at Château Lafite up-rooted, the park of Château Fonbadet devastated and the bell tower of the church in Pauillac thrown into a house some fifty metres away. Less dramatic perhaps was the damage to the roof of Château Palmer and the destruction of flagpoles at Pontet Canet and Cos d’Estournel. The brunt of the damage was borne by the appellation of Pauillac. This was as nothing to what was to visit the Entre-deux-Mers soon afterwards. The first of two storms hit on Tuesday 25th July with devastating consequences. Hailstones carried on the very strong winds tore into the vines destroying both fruit and foliage. Some 2,000 hectares were affected with some properties losing up to 90% of their crop. As bad as this was, just a week later the region was hit again, this time with hailstones the size of cricket balls stripping the vines entirely of foliage and fruit, leaving behind just the skeleton of the plants. The Entre-deux-Mers is the centre of white wine production in Bordeaux and it is estimated that a total of 4,000 hectares have been affected at a cost of €20,000,000. This very sad situation is compounded with many growers lacking insurance cover. Without government assistance it’s difficult to see how many properties will be able to survive.

With disappointing spring weather the growing season was slow to get going and the 2013 vintage was always likely to be of a modest size from the outset. These storms will lead to a severe shortage of inexpensive white wine, while the classified grows of the Médoc, particularly in Pauillac, have another challenging vintage ahead of them. The consequences for the Bordeaux market are potentially serious. A third less-than-stellar vintage in a row is going to do little to bolster the flagging fine Bordeaux market. Following the very poor take up of the 2011 and 2012 vintages during their respective “er primeur” campaigns,  the Château owners, more than ever before, need to look to price their wines very competitively in order to attract back those buyers that have rightly ignored the excessive price demands of the last two vintages. The investment market for these wines needs a vibrant “en primeur” campaign to re-energise the Bordeaux market – let’s hope that these unfortunate events result in a campaign that will be embraced by both merchants and customers alike.

Patrick Barran, Clarion Wines, 12th August 2013

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