8 Million Bottles of Champagne Will Never Exist, Thanks to a Freak Hailstorm

RIP 40 million mimosas.
01 June 2018, 9:35am
Photo via Flickr user bramus

Cyril Giresse, a winegrower in the Bordeaux region of France, said that hail the size of pigeon eggs rained down on his vineyards on Saturday. After looking at the devastation caused by the 15-minute storm, that must’ve been a huge freaking pigeon. “No leaves, no grapes, just the vines stripped as if the grapes had all been picked,” Giresse sighed.

The Times reports that hailstones totally wrecked 6 percent of vineyards in Bordeaux, as well as 14 percent of the brandy-centric vines in Cognac. The head of the Côtes de Bourg winegrowers’ association said that the damage to the vines could affect wine production for the next two years. He also worried that, thanks to 15 minutes’ worth of severe weather, some growers might be facing bankruptcy.

Bordeaux didn’t need this, not now. The Times explains that last year, frost and hail wreaked their own havoc on the region’s wine producers, resulting in the smallest harvest since 1991. The overall harvest, for all of France, was the smallest since World War II. So no, Mother Nature, this was not ideal.

The storms weren’t limited to Bordeaux, either: according to The Telegraph, hailstorms in the Champagne region damaged 1,800 hectares (around 4,450 acres) of vineyards, and another 2,470 were completely destroyed, ruining enough grapes to have made eight million bottles of Champagne. (Let’s pause here to pour one out for the souls of the mimosas we’ve lost). The loss for growers is an estimated €125 million (US $145 million) in sales that will never happen.

“[S]torm and hail are not unusual phenomena in Champagne, but what is rare is to see them at this very early stage and with this level of violence,” Champagne Committee communications director Thibaut Le Mailloux said. “Three percent of the potential future harvest vanished before our eyes. And it happened at a very bad time, as the vines are only starting to flower this week. Of course, flowers are more fragile than fruit or buds.” (Of course.)

Although the price of Bordeaux wines might increase next year, that’s not necessarily true for Champagne. That region has a reserve system, which allows producers to combine this year’s bubbly with “stocks from previous years.” That means there won’t be a Champers shortage—at least not because of hail.

The region is still strong enough to survive once-a-season storms, but sometimes I do wonder if brunch will eventually do it in.