France faces worst wine har­vest in post-war pe­riod

Business World - - AGRIBUSINESS -

FRANCE faces its poor­est wine har­vest since 1945 af­ter an un­usu­ally mild March and frosty April, ex­perts said Fri­day, al­though a hot sum­mer prom­ises to de­liver top vin­tages.

“At har­vests ev­ery­where, in places where we thought there would be a lit­tle less, there’s a lot less,” said Jerome De­spey, the head of a gov­ern­men­tal wine ad­vi­sory board.

This year’s har­vest will be “the small­est since 1945,” De­spey told a news con­fer­ence.

The agri­cul­ture min­istry said out­put was ex­pected to to­tal 37.2 mil­lion hec­to­liters, 18% less than 2016 and 17% be­low the av­er­age over the past five years.

The 2016 har­vest was al­ready one of the poor­est in 30 years.

De­spey said the min­istry fig­ures were based on as­sess­ments made early this month be­fore the start of the har­vests, which have now be­gun in the south­east, about two weeks ear­lier than usual.

De­spey, who is also sec­re­tary gen­eral of France’s big­gest farm­ers union FNSEA, told AFP last week he ex­pected a 40% drop in out­put in the prime wine-grow­ing re­gion of Bordeaux, the coun­try’s largest.

Vine­yards in north­east­ern Al­sace, which pro­duces mainly white wines, were also hard hit.

The new drop in pro­duc­tion is “mainly at­trib­ut­able to the se­vere spring frost that af­fected all the wine-grow­ing re­gions to vary­ing de­grees at a sen­si­tive time for the vine,” the agri­cul­ture min­istry said.

The bit­ter cold struck twice within a week in April, rav­aging the frag­ile shoots and buds that had emerged pre­ma­turely fol­low­ing mild tem­per­a­tures in March.

To com­bat the frost, ner­vous wine mak­ers in Bordeaux set fires in oil drums, then po­si­tioned them care­fully be­tween the rows of bud­ding grapevines. Gi­ant fans were also de­ployed to bat­tle the cold, damp air set­tling on the plants. —

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