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French Wine Volumes to Recover After Record-Early Grape Harvest

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(Bloomberg) —

France is forecasting a recovery in wine production this year as volumes increase in all main growing areas, following a record-early start to grape harvests in regions including Champagne and Burgundy.

The 2020 vintage is forecast to rise 6.3% from last year to 45 million hectoliters, equivalent to about 6 billion bottles, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement Tuesday. That signals a return to five-year average levels, after spring frost and summer drought damaged the 2019 grape crop.

Burgundy had its earliest harvest in more than six centuries, while grape picking in Champagne started in mid-August, the earliest on record, after an unusually warm spring followed summer-like temperatures in February. Climate change is expected to bring milder winters and hotter summers to France in coming decades, with effects ranging from easier ripening of fruit in Champagne to making Bordeaux less suitable for the merlot grape.

“Harvests started in August in almost all the regions, and show a remarkable advance compared to 2019,” the ministry said. “This is explained by a spring that was the second-warmest in 120 years and a relatively warm winter.”

READ: Climate Change Is Altering the Taste of the World’s Great Wines

In Burgundy, grape harvests started Aug. 12, the earliest date in records that go back to the 14th century, according to local wine board spokeswoman Mathilde Paturaud.

The volume of wines with a protected designation of origin is expected to increase 2.4%, a slower pace than total wine output as some growing regions set production limits in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Some regional inter-professional organizations decided to set the level of their designation wines lower than 2019, because of an economic market eroded by the Covid-19 crisis,” the ministry said.

In Champagne, production of designated-origin wine is forecast to fall 21% to 1.72 million hectoliters, even as total volumes climb, according to the government outlook. In response to falling sales, the region’s wine board reduced the maximum amount of grapes that can be used to produce Champagne-labeled sparkling wine by 22% to 8,000 kilograms per hectare this year, a spokeswoman said.

READ: Burgundy’s Vineyards Haven’t Been This Hot Since the Black Death

In the Loire Valley, rains in August boosted volumes, which are forecast to jump 44% to 3.15 million hectoliters. Harvesting started at the end of August, almost a month earlier than in 2019. For the Bordeaux region, harvesting of white-wine grapes is 15 days ahead of last year and is almost completed, with wine production there forecast to rise 1% to 5.37 million hectoliters.

Output in the Burgundy-Beaujolais region is forecast to rise 12% to 2.13 million hectoliters. In Burgundy, drought and heat reduced the volume of pinot noir grapes, according to the ministry, which doesn’t provide a breakdown for the growing area.


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