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France set for another poor wine harvest

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France set for another poor wine harvest
Harvesting the crop in France. Photo: Jean Louis Zimmerman
08:32 CEST+02:00
For most people in France the miserable cold and wet spring is a just a distant memory thanks to the return of the sun in July and August. But it is still a source of frustration for the country's wine growers who are facing one of the worst harvests in decades.

France is facing one of its poorest wine grape harvests in four decades, forecasts showed on Wednesday, due to a cold and rainy spring and severe hail storms.

The 2013 harvest is expected to reach just 43.5 millions hectolitres - well below the 10-year average of 45.4 million, according forecasts from the FranceAgriMer public agricultural service.

That would make the 2013 harvest one of the worst in 40 years and only a slight improvement on last year's record low harvest of 41.4 million, according to Jerome Despey, head of FranceAgriMer's viticulture section.

He said cool temperatures and excessive rains contributed to a particularly poor harvest.

Despey added that early tests also showed low sugar content.

"Sugar hasn't developed in the grapes and we'll have much lower (alcohol) levels than in previous years," he added.

Forecasts released by the agriculture ministry earlier this month, before devastating storms in Bordeaux, had already predicted France would experience one of the smallest harvests in 40 years in 2013.

Last week The Local reported how the harvest season got underway two weeks later than normal thanks to the weather but hopes were still high that 2013 could still be a vintage year, especially for red wines.

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.

“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. 

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