I first posted this article in 2021 and the advice is still valid!
In 2021 hail fell in the core (the village) of Gevrey-Chambertin.
This is a merely a thought from an old wine reviewer: Sometimes bad weather luck strikes, and hail hits – or simply touches – a vineyard.
At harvest, most wines can be salvaged by proper sorting to remove hailed berries. But this is a rigorous process that demands much more than lip service and too little work at the sorting table.
One can often taste a wine made with hail-affected grapes (the French call it the “gout de grele” – taste of hail). Even properly sorted, one can occasionally taste what might have been, as the lack of mid-palate shine and generosity leave the wine a bit reserved and austere.
But leaving truly damaged grapes in the wine can affect both the palate and finish, leaving somewhat bitter tannins and fruit, as well as an explosion of bitterness on the finish that renders the wine almost undrinkable for the competent taster.
After tasting a number of wines with hail damage, I have the following suggestions for producers:
A – Sort properly. This can on most occasions produce a good wine, although rarely a great one.
B – If sorting properly is beyond you, sell the grapes, and don’t make the wine. The bitterness of the result will affect your brand and image.
C – Sometimes (apparently) it’s difficult to taste the affected wines and maintain an objective stance about them. Be open and honest about the problem, and ask for advice from friends or colleagues. And remember, a bad example of hail damage does not improve with age.
I have sadly tasted some more or less undrinkable wines served by vignerons pretending all is great. It was not and is not.
As to the meaning of a Hail Mary, if you need to check, trust me: You cannot throw the ball that far!
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