France braces for drop in wine and champagne production due to bad weather
Wine production in France could drop 30% this year to its lowest level in decades after vineyards were hit by spring frosts and summer showers, its agriculture ministry said.
The weather report of the harvest could bring new headaches to a French wine sector which has seen demand shaken over the past year by the coronavirus pandemic and US tariffs.
Champagne producers have warned that their harvest potential has been cut by about half due to severe spring frosts followed by torrential summer rains which caused the late blight fungus.
In its first outlook for national wine production, the French Ministry of Agriculture forecast Friday 2021 production of between 32.6 million and 35.6 million hectoliters, or 24 to 30% less than last year .
One hectolitre equals 100 liters, or 133 standard bottles of wine.
“Wine production in 2021 is expected to be historically low, lower than the levels of 1991 and 2017 which were also affected by severe frosts in the spring,” the ministry said in a report.
Overall production is believed to be the lowest since at least 1970, according to ministry data, with almost all production affected by frosts.
Meanwhile, late blight disease caused by soggy summer conditions has affected regions such as Champagne, Alsace and Beaujolais.
Wine producers previously predicted that the frosts could reduce French production by a third.
With grapes around 10 days to two weeks behind last year’s growth rate, there was still time for yields to pick up slightly, said Jérôme Despey, producer and head of the wine committee of the agricultural agency FranceAgriMer.
The early harvest was just starting in the far south of France compared to late July 2020, he said.
Champagne producers say their long-standing practice of adjusting supply with stocks from previous seasons will prevent any spikes in sparkling wine prices.
The impact on the wider wine market may depend on whether the coronavirus variants cause further restrictions on hospitality and tourism.
“Wine producers are facing major challenges this year,” Despey said. “The lost production will never be compensated by market prices.”
In Italy, the world’s largest wine producer, the Coldiretti Farmers’ Association estimates production could drop 5-10% this year to 44-47 million hectoliters.
High temperatures led to the harvest starting a week earlier in the south, while in the north grape growth was about 10 days late after heavy rains, Coldiretti said.