On Saturday, June 1st, in the Penedès region of Catalunya there was a hailstorm that lasted just 30 minutes. But what it lacked for in terms of length, it made up for in terms of intensity.

Videos on social media showed near white-out conditions as the hail blasted Penedès and specifically, the upper or ‘Alt’ regions intensely and destroyed at least 70% of the new grapes growing on the vines totally 1,500ha in area within the region.

While most of the municipalities of Baix Penedès, Alt Penedès, and Anoia y Garraf counties were hit to some degree, those of: Santa Margarida i els Monjos, Castellet i la Gornal, and Sant Martí Sarroca i Font-rubí were pounded exceptionally hard by the storm. The farmers’ union, Unió de Pagesos states that the losses are currently stated to be at about five million Euros and seven million kgs of potential grapes.

Those with vineyards on the eastern side of the region were largely unscathed and Jessica Madigan of Cisteller said, “It [2024] should be a good vintage if nothing else catastrophic happens, we hope.”

The irony of this huge hit of frozen water is summed by Josep Marrugat, representing the Unió de Pagesos, “We’ve been waiting for water, but not hail like this that’s come with such virulence.” At stake are the ongoing drought conditions in Catalunya at large which has placed countless hectares of vineyards in danger with varying totals of vines having died due to two consecutive years without adequate rain.

There were additional problems before the drought given a mildew plague that swept the same region, as well as others, in 2020, heavily reducing crops. Viticulturists were very much in need of a healthy, abundant vintage like 2021 and 2024 had been relatively generous with rain to this point. Francesc Olivella, the director of DO Penedès said that in the affected regions, they still might be able to save up to 40% of the harvest depending upon the final conditions.

It’s difficult to say what denomination of origin this affected the most as in this area, there’s the overlap of DO Penedès, DO Cava, and even DO Catalunya. For those under DO Penedès, there will be the added issue that as of next year all vineyards need to be certified organic and thus, most are already working fully organically. This will prove challenging when dealing with the hail-affected vineyards as there will be a tendency for fungal issues to set in, in the damaged vines.

Those with affected vineyards are waiting to see if the Catalan government will provide any line of compensatory aid for the losses, but there is as of yet, no word.

It was definitely not what the region needed, but it seems to be the issue that in addition to warming temperatures each year, the weather is getting more and more extreme and sadly, there is little that viticulturists can do about it except hope that next year, will be a good year.

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