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Friday, February 16, 2018

Burgundy Goes High-Tech

                 Ancient monks built walls ("clos") around vineyards to demarcate the best plots

Wine-making in Burgundy is deeply entrenched in centuries of traditions. It began with the monks of the Middle Ages who carefully and methodically mapped out each square inch of the region’s vineyards.  Detailed maps of the monks identified which plots of earth consistently made the best wines---this mapping today serves as the basis for Burgundy’s hierarchy of vineyard classification.  But, recently Burgundy has shifted on its axis by installing high-tech solutions to solve its age-old issue of poor weather.

                 Hail, sometimes as large as golf balls, has wreaked havoc on Burgundy's vineyards

Hail storms have long been a threat to the Burgundy region, but in recent years they have been appearing more frequently and with greater force.  Their destruction in the last five years has been particularly horrific with as much as >90% of the grapes lost to hail during the worst storms.  Burgundian vintners are fed up and have turned to technology for an answer.  The region has become the first in France to be totally covered by a “hailstone shield.”

                                       Grapes can be split completely open by hail

Burgundy is now protected the region's grapes with high-tech machines. The idea is to kill the storm before it arrives and avoid any hail from forming.  A network of 125 specialized machines have been dispersed throughout France’s smallest wine region.  These machines send particles up into the atmosphere that act as a hail-shield. The anti-hail devices have not only  been placed throughout the region, but the machines have been extended to a perimeter up to 30 miles around Burgundy’s vineyards.

               Netting has been used to protect the vines from hail but its cost was too prohitive

It’s not just grapes, however, that are destroyed by hail.  All of Burgundy’s produce has been a target, everything from fruits to vegetables.  Cassis, the berry liquor made from Burgundy’s prized black currants, has also been impacted.

Coming with Wine Knows to Burgundy in 2019?  If so, we’ll have an opportunity to observe the technology and hear first-hand about its efficacy from the first year of use.  For more information on this trip to Burgundy (we'll also be visiting Champagne) see our website,

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