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Fingers crossed as wine harvest begins in France

Ben McPartland · 20 Aug 2013, 10:56

Published: 20 Aug 2013 10:56 GMT+02:00

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The harvesting of France's grapes began in earnest this week in the southern region of Roussillon – traditionally the first area to begin collecting the grapes.

Although we are not yet at the end of August, the start of the harvest season in Rousillon is actually two weeks later than usual thanks to the cold and wet spring.

Because of the weather, professionals are only expecting an average crop yield, but despite the delay, wine growers are in upbeat mood.

“It is very late but it doesn’t matter. The vines are beautiful," said Catherine Jeannin, owner of the Mas Crémat vineyard in Espira-de-l'Agly.

The first teams of pickers were out in the vineyards early on Monday morning collecting “Muscat” grapes, not to make the famous sweet wines, but a dry white wine, which will be the first of the 2013 wines to hit the shelves when they go on sale in October.

Marc Guichet, from the Chamber of Agriculture in the Pyrénées-Orientales region believes the delay in the harvest could mean a vintage year for red wine in Roussillon.

After a stormy summer, however, where vineyards in Bordeaux and Burgundy have been ravaged, he accepts that disaster could strike at any time.

“If the grapes are allowed to ripen we can do wonderful things, but on the other hand we could get downpours, hailstorms or grapevine moths, which can be very destructive,” he warned.

The harvest season in France is set to run until the end of October.

Winegrowers in Roussillon will hope to be spared the fate suffered by their counterparts in Bordeaux and Burgundy this summer, which saw several prestigious vineyards decimated by storms.

Earlier this month, the government were forced to step in and promise aid to winegrowers in parts of the Bordeaux region who saw their crops devastated by hailstones the size of ping pong balls.

One of those, Loic Roquefeuil from St Leon, lost 30 hectares of vines.

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“There is nothing. It is frightening. With 200,000 bottles at €3 a piece, the loss is huge,” he told AFP.

And in July it was the vineyards of Burgundy which came in for a battering from extreme weather.

Crops from some of the region’s most prestigious wines like Pommard were ruined leaving certain winegrowers facing "catastrophe".

Wine growers across France will now be hoping to get to the end of the harvest season unscathed. 

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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