Vineyards in Burgundy are set to become the first in France to be covered by a hi-tech ‘hailstone shield’.
Over the next few weeks the entire Burgundy wine region will be sheltered by a network of 125 generators, according to the latest reports.
The generators heat up small particles of silver iodide so that they then rise up (to an altitude of one kilometre) to protect against hail stones.
The vast investment in this technology is designed to minimise the risk of damage to the vineyards, following several years of extreme hail storms over the region. Last year areas such as Chablis were hit hard by hail storms with reports indicating up to 90% of crops in some vineyards had been destroyed.
Up to 15,000 hectares in the region have already been protected following major destruction after storms in 2014 but by June this year the entire 42,000 hectare area will be protected, including Chablis to the north, Macon in the centre and Beaujolais to the south. This system, known as cloud seeding, is already used in some areas of France, including parts of Bordeaux, but this will be the first time a large and entire wine producing area has made this move.
The generators can be switched on as soon as an alert is sent out by a weather forecaster and warnings are usually up to four hours ahead of a predicted storm. All wine growers in the region will receive the same alert and the amount of molecules that can then be released across the region can form a shield against hail.