Guest blog: Lafite’s weeping willows

Liv-ex has opened up the blog to Gavin Quinney (@GavinQuinney), our regular guest blogger and wine producer at Chateau Bauduc. Following the storms in Bordeaux over the weekend, he reports on the impact had on the region. The photos are of Lafite's willows and copyright Gavin Quinney.


We had a storm in Bordeaux late last Friday and in the early
hours of Saturday. Summer thunderstorms here are not uncommon after protracted
heat waves, but there was some significant, localised damage. Heavy rain caused
flash floods in the city, strong winds brought down a few trees around the
region, and vine growers prayed that any hail would pass them by.

The most photogenic damage was to the willow trees of
Chateau Lafite Rothschild that sit between the lakes and gardens of this
illustrious property and the D2 main road. Many were brought down in fierce
winds between 11pm on Friday and 2am on Saturday.

Several estates in Pauillac, such as Pontet Canet, Lynch
Bages and Fonbadet, suffered superficial damage – to trees, mostly – but it was
in the valley below the buildings at Lafite that tourists stopped to take
pictures. At least twenty trees were lost or broken and by Sunday evening there
was still a great deal of clearing up to be done.

Lafite_willows_1

The mass devastation to the willows is all the more
extraordinary when viewed from the hill just half a mile away, looking down
from Cos d'Estournel in St-Estèphe. The impact was extremely localised, not
unlike the hailstorms that ran through the same area – a few hundred metres to
the north – on 1 September 2011. This time, thankfully, there was no damage to
any vines whatsoever. Low rows of trellised, deep-rooted vines can withstand
even the strongest winds.

As has been seen elsewhere this month, it’s hail that
viticulteurs fear most. The large, red 'G' on the weather forecast – for risque
de grêle – can spell acute danger to the crop.

The only hail of any note fell on the low-lying vineyards of
Génissac and Arveyres on the banks of the Dordogne, just south of Libourne,
located in the Entre Deux Mers but where they grow mostly red grapes for
Bordeaux Supérieur. You have to feel for Jean-Pierre Angliviel de la Beaumelle
of Chateau Larteau near Arveyres, the vineyard that many in the wine trade
would have passed on their way heading north east to the bridge over the river
into Libourne, before turning right to the offices of JP Moueix on the Quai du
Priourat.

The Angliviel de la Beaumelle family have invested heavily
in this attractive Chateau since buying it in 2007, including a Mistral grape
sorting machine. This year, there will be little worth sorting from his 25
acres of merlot. Hail, if you're one of the unlucky ones, can be devastating.

A few miles to the north, Jacques Guinaudeau was quietly
clearing a few branches from a fruit tree at Chateau Lafleur in Pomerol, and
they'll be removing a fallen branch from a huge cedar at Vieux Chateau Certan
shortly. I need to go and do the same here, reflecting that it could have been
far, far worse.

Lafite_willows_2

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