Grape Expectations: French Wine Harvest Begins
The wine harvest has kicked off in France and experts predict smaller-than-normal yields but “great quality.”
The wine harvest has kicked off in France and experts predict smaller-than-normal yields but “great quality.” After a growing season challenged by frost and hail but capped by abundant sunshine, output is certain to be down so all that’s left to bank on is 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 percent drop in wine production compared with 2015, to 42.9 million hectoliters.
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 percent of the market at 8.2 billion euros ($9.1 billion) in 2015.
In terms of volume, France ranks third with 14 million hectoliters last year, according to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine.