Twenty-minutes isn’t a long time, but it’s a lifetime if, on the eve of harvest, your vineyard is sat beneath a storm producing hail the size of golf balls. As extreme vineyard events go the St Estèphe hail storm that struck on September 1st 2011 was a dramatic as they come. Not every producer was mind you. It was highly localised, passing some vineyards, clipping others but decimating quite a few. Basil Tesseron, owner of Chateau Lafon-Rochet, who made good wine in the end, described it as the viticultural equivalent of falling off the Empire State Building – a microscopically short event ending in oblivion. The immediate fear, apart from the reduction in yield and damage to those vines physically stripped of their leaves, branches and fruit, would have then been the secondary threat of rot on the remaining bunches. This fear would have been made more complex by the fact that the vineyards were approaching maturity but not quite ready to pick. Do you wait and get proper phenolic ripeness or risk losing the lot to rot? Or do you pick quickly but end up with green wines and unripe tannins? Add all this to a vintage that had seen conditions see-saw and which overall was pitifully dry. Pouring over meteorological charts at that few days of harvest was probably all you could do – that and having a stiff gin and tonic and go with your instinct. Close your eyes and feel the force Luke.