Are Burgundy Wine Growers Cheating Terroir?

It’s being reported by the London Telegraph that the entire Burgundy wine region is set to be protected by a ” ‘hailstone shield’ to kill destructive storms that have blighted the famed wine growing region in recent years.”

Here’s what I’m wondering: Is this “Hailstone Shield” altering the terroir of Burgundy, and if it is, what does this say about the longstanding commitment in Burgundy to its unique terroir and the unique wines it is said to produce?

The first part of that question is clearly rhetorical as there is no question that the “Hailstone Shield” is altering the effect of the very unique Burgundy terroir. It raises the question if the Burgundians could use technology to increase their average temperature by a degree or two, would they? I suspect there would be a number of growers that would jump on the opportunity.

It shouldn’t be controversial to suggest that vintners around the globe love the idea of “terroir” just up until the moment a terroir does not positively impact the quality of the grapes. And this is clearly the case in Burgundy and the coming “Hailstone Shield”.

Thiebault Huber is the president of the Volnay Wine Union and also happens to be the owner of  biodynamically farmed vineyards in Volnay, Pommard and Meursault. He notes that after having lost “massive amounts” of money as a result of the 2012 hail storms, he could not “just sit here arms crossed waiting for the hail to rain down and imperil our crops.”

M. Huber also notes that as a biodynamic farmer, “There is no way I would use this technique if I thought it harmful.”

Though I don’t know, I rather doubt that there are any requirements within the Demeter Biodynamic certification process that prohibit the climate by installing a “network of 125 ground generators that cause tiny particles of silver iodide to rise to the clouds above, where they stop the formation of hailstones.”

However, I wonder if there should be.

 

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2 Responses

  1. Dennis Lapuyade - April 17, 2017

    Interesting question. Isn’t netting vines to protect from birds the same thing? Or smudge pots to protect against frost? Let the discussion begin.

  2. L.M. Archer - April 19, 2017

    Terroir is a term used to describe a unique ‘sense of place,’ biodynamics a holistic approach to farming, and hail a weather occurrence. Not sure how protecting one’s vines from hail storms is ‘cheating’ terroir? Have yet to hear Burgundy’s vignerons called terroir ‘cheaters’ for grafting to prevent phylloxera, spraying to prevent mildew, or netting to prevent bird damage…


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