independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Warning over poor wine harvest

European wine makers are warning of a poor harvest ths year

European farmers have warned that drought, cold and hail have led to the worst wine harvest in up to half a century.

Farmers union expert Thierry Coste said that France's grape harvest is expected to slump by almost 20% compared to last year. Italy's grape crop showed a 7% drop - on top of a decline in 2011.

The Champagne and Burgundy regions were hard hit by weather conditions that particularly affected the chardonnay grape.

Mr Coste said there may be an upside to the bad harvest - the quality of the wine produced will be good as it is expected to be more concentrated. While some price increases were on the cards, he hoped excessive rises could be avoided. In places where vintners were already facing a small margin of profit, many could be facing survival problems, said Mr Coste of the Copa-Cogeca union.

"In certain regions, there will be many vintners in big difficulties because of the collapse of the harvest," he said.

The European wine harvest automatically has a global impact since it accounts for some 62% of the worldwide wine production.

In Europe, about 2.5 million families live off the wine sector. It makes the dependency on the vagaries of weather a sometimes cruel business.

Drought hit the Mediterranean rim hard this year, Mr Coste, a co-operative leader in southern France's Herault region, said. "First and foremost, climate change or not, we see that we have ever more dry spells," he said. Making matters worse is that even winter was dry this time. "It was almost zero in the south."

In the northern wine regions, it was the inverse, with cold and wet weather wreaking havoc. Hail in particular hurt the crops. "Natural phenomena happened all at the same time to make sure the harvest is so small," he said.

French figures show that in Champagne the harvest could decline by 40%, with Bourgogne Beaujolais expected to decline 30%. Bordeaux would get away lightly with a drop of 10%.

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