A freak hail storm which hit part of the Champagne area at around 5.30pm last Sunday evening (July 2, 2000) has caused extensive damage to over 3,000 hectares of prime vineyard, around 10% of the total appellation. In a short but devastating burst which lasted less than half an hour, hailstones the size of ice cubes beat a path along the Marne Valley from Chateau Thierry in the west through to beyond Ay in the east. The storm then turned north, crossing the Montagne de Reims and wreaked havoc in villages including Trepail, Verzy, Verzenay, Mailly, Ludes, Rilly-le Montagne and Chigny-les-Roses, where most of the appellation's top-rated Pinot Noir is planted.