Slim but fine pickings as French wine harvest begins

Vintners everywhere are thanking a dry, hot summer. — AFP pic
Vintners everywhere are thanking a dry, hot summer. — AFP pic

PARIS, Sept 22 — The wine harvest has kicked off in France after a growing season challenged by frost and hail but capped by abundant sunshine, with experts predicting a small yield but one of “great quality”.

Growers on the balmy Mediterranean island of Corsica began the harvest in mid-August, while Rhone vineyards in central France got to work only last week.

Other regions including Bordeaux in the southwest and the Loire Valley are holding off until October.

Vintners everywhere are thanking a dry, hot summer for “lovely, healthy grapes”, said Jerome Despey, who heads the wine division of agriculture ministry offshoot FranceAgriMer.

“Overall, we are going to see wines of great quality,” he said.

However, output will be down because of freezing episodes and hailstorms in the spring, especially in Champagne, Burgundy and the Loire Valley, Despey said, predicting “one of the smallest harvests since that of 1993”.

Late last month the government forecast a 10 per cent drop in wine production compared with 2015, to 42.9 million hectolitres.

The Bordeaux, Alsace and Beaujolais regions were largely spared the ravages of the spring and are expected to match or exceed last year’s output.

Even within regions some vineyards fared better than others, such as in Champagne where mildew and a fungal disease, esca, added to the weather woes.

France is the world’s top wine exporter by value, accounting for 29 per cent of the market at €8.2 billion (RM37.87 billion) in 2015.

In terms of volume, France ranks third with 14 million hectolitres last year, according to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine. — AFP-Relaxnews

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