Two weeks ago both Hardscrabble and Avenius Vineyards experienced a moderate hail event. Yield losses are modest, around 10%. However, the lingering damage could adversely affect the quality of the vintage. Berries that were hit hard and cracked open have now dried and mostly fallen off the vine, but the berries that were bruised are staying attached to the cluster. Our concern is that these damaged berries will not develop proper flavors and tannins. This will require extremely meticulous sorting both in the vineyard and at the sorting table during crush.
It is a bit discouraging to look at a healthy, vibrant vine that carries less than pristine clusters. It is a reminder that climate change has arrived (this was the second hail event this year, the other being much earlier before the berries formed). As hail frequency and severe thunderstorms become the norm, we are discussing future management techniques that could help mitigate damage. One thing we noticed is that the damage was worst in blocks where we had done the most leaf and lateral shoot removal. In the future we’ll need to change the way we approach our canopy management.
On a visit to Barolo two years ago I observed several vineyards with hail netting. This is a major cost and inconvenience as it must go up early in the season and stay in place until harvest. I hope it won’t come to this for us.