France faces worst wine harvest in post-war period
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. —