French wine harvest among smallest for 30 years

Hail, frost and mildew have ravaged French vineyards since the spring. — Reuters pic
Hail, frost and mildew have ravaged French vineyards since the spring. — Reuters pic

PARIS, Nov 9 — This year’s French wine harvest is among the smallest for 30 years, down 10 per cent on last year although not quite as bad as feared, authorities said yesterday.

French grape growers have produced 43.2 million hectolitres, according to data released by the French agriculture ministry, saying the November 1 harvest estimate was 6 per cent lower than the average of the last five years.

Hail, frost and mildew have ravaged French vineyards since the spring, even if “precipitation since mid-September has benefited vines where harvest had not yet started,” said the ministry’s Agreste statistics service.

The result is “one of the weakest (harvests) for 30 years,” even if not as bad had been forecast, said the ministry.

In September, experts said the growing season had been challenged by frost and hail although capped by abundant sunshine, predicting a small yield but one of “great quality”.

Yesterday the ministry said the output slump “is mostly due to the springtime frost” which notably hit the Champagne, Bourgogne (Burgundy) and Loire Valley regions, and the lack of rain further south near the Mediterranean.

But in the Champagne region, while the fall in production was significant, it was not as severe as feared due to “very favourable weather conditions at harvest time,” it said.

France is the world’s top wine exporter by value, accounting for 29 per cent of the market at €8.2 billion (RM37.8 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

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