On May 26, the Cognac region and parts of southwestern France were hit by a destructive hailstorm. While still assessing the damage of that May 26 hailstorm, Cognac was hit with a new episode on June 3. While this storm was less severe than the one a week earlier, it followed a series of vineyard damaging hailstorms and late spring frosts the past few years.
Last April, a late frost struck the Cognac region, damaging a good portion of the vineyards. The frost was bad news for Cognac producers, including Hennessy, who already projected Hennessy V.S. shortages for later in 2017 and was hoping to add to its eau-de-vie stock with strong growing season last year.
The recent inclement weather has come during a period of explosive cognac demand and sales growth. According to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), cognac shipments have been at a record pace for over a year. The latest Cognac figures through the end of May show 203.5 million bottles were shipped during the period June 2017-May 2018, an increase in volume of 10.1% over the past 12 months compared to the period June 2016 to May 2017. Turnover over the last 12 months was equal to €3,169 million.
Preliminary Assessment of Vineyard Damage
On May 26, 2018, the BNIC said on behalf of cognac growers and firms in the region:
“Our vineyards were again hit by a violent episode of hail.
In this difficult moment, the BNIC, its elected officials and its teams express their greatest support to the winegrowers of Charente-Maritime and Charente whose vines were destroyed or damaged.
Our services are currently in the field to evaluate the precise impact of this episode on our vineyards.”
The BNIC provided a further update a few days later:
“Last Saturday, the production area Cognac suffered a violent hail from the Gironde. The latter followed a fairly wide corridor of about 3 to 4 kilometers beyond the Gironde. Large hail struck south of Charente-Maritime on a Mirambeau-Jonzac-Pons axis with an epicenter towards Jonzac. The Borderies (Saint-Laurent de Cognac, Javrezac, Saint-Sulpice) were also affected as well as, further north, the western sector of Matha. The area of Rouillac, Mareuil and Vaux-Rouillac was also impacted.
3,500 hectares of vineyards were severely affected (more than 80% destroyed) out of a total of more than 10,000 hectares affected to varying degrees throughout the Charentes-Cognac basin.”
Anti-Hail Network was Activated During the Hailstorms
The BNIC noted that the ANELFA anti-hail network was activated during the storms. Its generators seed hailstorms with dust from silver iodide ground generators in order to reduce the size of the hailstones. Click here to learn about the French Hail Prevention system that was created in conjunction with the French Association to Suppress Atmospheric Plagues that was established in 1951.