The Hand of God

Hail in BordeauxClatter, clatter, clatter. The worst sound in the world for a winegrower.

In the middle of the night, at 3.30 in the morning on 13th May, we were battered by a hailstorm. And when violent winds accompany the sound of hail, we know it’s very bad news. Parts of Bordeaux were hit the night before, on Monday 11th, and we’d had a smattering of peanut-sized hail too. Our vineyard manager Daniel joked yesterday that if we’d been included in that storm, with hailstones the size of new potatoes, we should change our métiers, or jobs. I don’t think he was expecting lightning to literally strike twice.

On close inspection first thing this morning, this is by far the worst we’ve seen here. We lost 50% of the crop on 24 June 2003, and last year we had frost in April that wiped out much of our sauvignon blanc.

This year, as a result of last night’s hailstorm, the amount of white we can make will be far lower still, which is really sad considering the amount of new vines we’ve planted. The merlot has taken a pounding too – around the château we’ve lost perhaps 80% of the potential crop of all varieties, spread over some 16 hectares or 40 acres. Younger vines, which are not yet in production, have also been hit, and have probably been set back a year due to the damage to the young wood.

We are now spraying to try and save what’s left, but it’s not looking good. There certainly won’t be any Les Trois Hectares white in 2009, as every old sémillon vine there has been trashed for this year, and we’re attempting damage limitation for next year’s crop, as the branches of the vines have been peppered.

Judging by the collapse in the price of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand after a bumper 2009 harvest the other side of the world, you might just detect a hint of Marlborough in the Château Bauduc Bordeaux Blanc for 2009. Although I somehow doubt we could get the tanker past the authorities.

Cue ‘Always look on the bright side of life’, from The Life of Brian. And a ‘Sod the Donkey – Adopt a Vine’ appeal to our customers. Buy now before prices rise.

More anon. If I can summon up the enthusiasm, that is.