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France to make least wine in 60 years as frost, rot hit grapes
[PARIS] 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 shriveled grape bunches in the country's southeast.
Wine volume will fall 19 per cent 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 Southeast 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 24 per cent to 47.2 million hectolitres, the country's association of wine-industry technicians said in August.
Bordeaux was among French wine regions hardest hit by frost in late April, with the volume of wine carrying the regional label falling 39 per cent 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 47 per cent decline.
In Champagne, where the spring frost was less destructive than in 2016, production of designated-origin wines is seen falling 9 per cent 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 6 per cent 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 16 per cent to 10.35 million hectolitres, while volume in southeast France is forecast to drop 22 per cent 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.