Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bad news for French wine harvest

Bins of grapes are pictured in the St Emilion region in 2000

PARIS (AFP) — French wine authorities predicted Tuesday that this year's harvest will be smaller than the previous one due to poor weather and fewer vineyards.

Production is expected to reach 43.6 million hectolitres, close to five percent less than last year's 46.54 million hectolitres, which was already considered lower than average, according to the national agricultural body Viniflhor.

Harvesting of grapes began in southern France in late August after several months of rain, wind, hail and a spring cold snap that left Viniflhor officials pessimistic.

Table wines -- the lowest quality produced -- are expected to drop by 8.5 percent compared to last year while the prestigious AOC-labeled wines will be down 6.8 percent, according to Viniflhor.

"The cold snap in late March had a direct impact on some vineyards," Viniflhor said.

"From the Bordelais region to Provence, there was frost on April 6 and 7, at a critical period when the grapes are very vulnerable," it added.

Uprooting of vineyards has also caused a dent in production.

Under an European Union plan to combat overproduction, wine producers are offered compensation in exchange for curbing their vineyard capacity.