May 28, 2018 / 3:45 PM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Hailstorms ravage French Bordeaux and Cognac vineyards

(Adds damage to champagne region)

BORDEAUX/PARIS, May 28 (Reuters) - Violent hailstorms ravaged parts of the Bordeaux and Cognac wine regions of southwest France on Saturday, doing major damage to hundreds of vineyards with thousands of hectares of vines destroyed, producers said on Monday.

This comes just a year after the Bordeaux region suffered one of its worst harvests in history with a fall of 39 percent on year due to late frosts, which lead to a jump in prices.

The hail first hit the south of the region on Saturday at midday, affecting the Pessac-Leognan region and the south of Medoc, home to some of the region’s most famous chateaux, Bernard Farges, head of Bordeaux producers’ union CIVB, said.

It then devastated vineyards of Cotes de Bourg and Cotes de Blaye on the right bank of the Gironde river and, further east, in the Gensac and Pessac-sur-Dordogne.

The vineyard of Cognac was also hit by hail. Officials mention an initial figure of 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres)affected out of a total 70,000 hectares. They had also been damaged by frosts last year.

“The figures...which will have to be refined, show that between 500 and more than 1,000 wine growers have been affected with a area hit of 1,000 hectares in the Medoc, between 4,000 and 5,000 hectares for Cote de Blaye and Cote de Bourg and about 1,000 hectares in the vicinity of Gensac”, Farges told Reuters.

Some winemakers lost 100 percent of their harvest, he said.

There are 112,000 hectares of vines in the entire Bordeaux vineyard, the second-largest wine producing region in France after Languedoc Roussillon.

Champagne, in northern France, has also been hit by hail and storms in recent weeks.

“We already think more than 300 hectares were destroyed and that is without counting the storm we had a few days ago and the one forecast tonight,” said Brigitte Batonnet of Champagne producers’ group CIVC.

Last year France’s total production had fallen to a record low due to a series of poor weather incidents including spring frosts, drought and storms that affected most of the main growing regions including Bordeaux and Champagne.

French wine prices rose 6 percent in the first six months of the 2017/18 season, with Bordeaux posting a 16 percent price increase, farm ministry data released in March showed. (Reporting by Claude Canellas and Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Leigh Thomas)

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