Lifestyle / Alcohol

France’s wine production drops by a fifth in 2017

Hit by spring frost and hails, key wine-harvesting regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy are expected to see as much as a 50% drop in wine output.

Aug 29, 2017 | By Pameyla Cambe

2017 is shaping up to be a particularly challenging year for vintners, regardless of where they are on the map. Italy’s wine harvest season has recently been marked by a drop in volumes due to the a spell of bad weather conditions. Now, it seems that the curse has befallen its neighbour in the West as well.

As announced by the French agriculture ministry on Friday, France’s wine production in 2017 is expected to be 37.2 million hectolitres. That’s 18% less than 2016, when France suffered one of its poorest harvests in 30 years.

Like Italy, France’s wine-growing regions have been struck by a severe spring frost twice within a week last April, which was a sensitive period for the vines. The adverse effects of the bitter cold surfaced not long after: the fragile vine shoots and buds, which had emerged prematurely thanks to mild temperatures in March, were utterly ravaged.

French winemakers have gone to lengths to combat the frost. Giant fans have been deployed to prevent the cold, damp air from settling on the plants, while water sprinklers are used to cast a fine coating of ice upon the vines to keep them from freezing through.

Over at Bordeaux, winemakers have resorted to more desperate measures, such as setting fires in oil drums and positioning them carefully between rows of budding grapevines. They have every reason to be worried, too; France’s prime wine-growing region (and its largest) is expected to see a 40% drop in output this year.

Burgundy is also fated for a similar misfortune, mainly due to the repeated attacks of hail in recent years. According to the Global Wine Risk Index, Burgundy’s wine harvest has been slashed by half in the five years to 2016, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

Things are looking up, however, down in the south, where an exceptionally dry summer has resulted in the accelerated maturation of vines. Winemakers have begun harvesting the smaller grapes two weeks earlier than usual, looking forward to the top vintage that the grapes will yield.

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