A violent storm with a small tornado struck the French town of Bedarrides on the afternoon of August 14. Wind gusts of 120 mph and large hailstones caused damage to vineyards along Chateauneuf du Pape’s eastern side. Local vignerons reported that the storm’s main impact was felt at La Crau. This famed vineyard is located on a plateau to the southeast of the appellation and is considered by many to be Chateauneuf’s finest parcel. This is where many well-known wineries source their best cuvees. These include Vieux Telegraphe and Chateau La Boutiniere, Chateau La Nalys, Domaine La Boutiniere, Guillaume Gonnet and Chateau La Crau.
“We estimate we’ve lost between 70 and 90 percent of our Vieux Telegraphe plots,” Daniel Brunier told Wine Spectator. Brunier describes his family’s vineyard, where grapes have been grown since 1890, as “completely destroyed; not a single leaf remains.” Only a few partially damaged grapes are still attached to the vine. He reports that Vieux Telegraphe Blanc will not be made in 2022. It is still too early to know if Vieux Telegraphe Red 2022 can be produced.
Kelly Gonnet, who runs Guillaume Gonnet along with her husband of third-generation winemaking, Guillaume Gonnet, and owns it, said that the grapes and leaves themselves were destroyed. It was violent, and we can clearly see that many trees were split and uprooted in the village. The good news is none of the La Crau vines were uprooted. They should recover fully for the next harvest. It would have been tragic if the vineyards were permanently damaged.
Other reports indicated that hailstorms caused significant damage to vineyards in the Chateauneuf area, including many within the Courthezon village. Some have estimated that 25 percent of Chateauneuf-du-Pape’s vineyards were affected, though the grower’s Wine Spectator spoke with said that the full extent of how much fruit was lost will not be known until harvest. They say that no site was more severely affected than La Crau.
Benoit Lavau from Maison Lavau said that on the other side, at Chateau Macoil, we had no hail. The storm was localized.
The French newspaper Le Dauphine Libere described it as “Tornade Americaine” due to its similarity to weather phenomena more commonly observed in the U.S. South, Midwest, and Midwest. It was an extremely unusual weather event.
Brunier said: “We are certain that this is the first such event to have occurred in our lifetime.” “We’ve been hit by hail before, notably [in] the years 1963 and 1964. But nothing like what happened in August.” 14.”
Daniel Brunier says he will make no white Châteauneuf for Vieux Télégraphe from La Crau this year and is not sure about the red. (Andrew Kovalev)
This was just the latest in a series of freak weather events that have been a sign of climate change. Europe experienced an extreme summer marked by heat waves, forest fires, and drought. On August 16, two days after the storms and hail, record-breaking storms in Paris caused flash floods. Two days later, heavy rains and hurricane-force wind speeds of over 136 mph in France and Italy killed eight people.
Southern Rhone vignerons are optimistic about the 2022 harvest despite the damage. Gonnet said, “It’s a shock that so many grapes were lost to the natural disaster. But we are grateful that no one was injured and the remaining grapes remain in excellent condition.” “We hope to see a very nice vintage in terms of quality but a smaller quantity,” said Gonnet.
Brunier is also looking at the bright side. He’s grateful that “the Mistral winds blowing intensely since the tornado” will ensure that the fruit that survives will be dry and free of rot. The quality of the grapes is excellent, and they are continuing to mature on other plots, which traditionally ripen later. We also have vineyards in Ventoux and Gigondas where we make red and white Pigeoulet, as well as Megaphone.
Brunier said, “Our profession is a passion, which allows us to see the good side.”