France To Make Least Wine In 60 Years As Frost, Rot Hit Grapes
French winemakers will produce the smallest vintage in 60 years, after spring frost hit vines in Bordeaux, summer storms caused grape rot in Champagne, and drought shrivelled grape bunches in the country’s south-east.
Wine volume will fall by 19%, to 36.9 million hectolitres, this year – equivalent to about 4.9 billion bottles – the Agriculture Ministry forecasts. That would be the least since 1957 – another year when a spring freeze destroyed flower buds – based on data from the ministry and the European Union’s statistics department.
“The drop in production will be mainly on account of the hard spring frost,” the ministry said. “The persistent drought in the south-east further reduces production.”
France and Italy typically compete for the rank of world’s biggest wine producer, with weather a key factor. Italy’s vineyards suffered less damage from frost and drought, with wine volume forecast to fall by 24%, to 47.2 million hectolitres, the country’s association of wine-industry technicians said in August.
Bordeaux was among the French wine regions hit hardest by frost in late April, with the volume of wine carrying the regional label falling by 39%, to 3.55 million hectolitres, according to the agriculture ministry. Even so, output was better than the ministry was expecting in August, when it forecast a 47% decline.
In Champagne, where the spring frost was less destructive than in 2016, production of designated-origin wines is falling by 9%, to 1.8 million hectolitres. That’s a reversal from an August outlook for an increase, after summer storms caused grape damage and rot that required winemakers to sort their fruit.
For the Burgundy-Beaujolais region, home to the world’s most expensive wines, the volume of wine carrying a regional label is forecast to rise by 6%, to 2.08 million hectolitres. Grape-picking was completed in September, the ministry said.
In Languedoc-Roussillon, output of all wines including generic ones may fall by 16%, to 10.35 million hectolitres, while volume in south-eastern France is forecast to drop by 22%, to 4.51 million hectolitres. Hot, dry and windy weather parched the grapes, reducing yields and grape juice. Harvesting in the regions – the source of most of France’s bulk wine – was completed earlier than usual.