France to regain crown as top wine producer

With a bumper harvest predicted, France looks set to regain its crown as the world's biggest wine producer, according to estimates by an international wine body this week.

France to regain crown as top wine producer
France is set to regain its crown as world's top wine producer. Photo: Jean Louis Zimmerman/AFP

France is poised to reclaim the crown as the world's biggest wine producer, according to forecasts published on Thursday by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine.

With 2014's production forecasted to reach more than 46 million hectolitres, the home of the Burgundy, Bordeaux and Chardonnay would beat both Italy and Spain to the throne.

Italy is expected to produce just 44.2 million hectolitres this year, down sharply from the 52.4 million last year due to an unusually wet and cold summer.

Spain's output is expected to reach 37 million hectolitres this year compared to 45.6 million in 2013.

New World wine production meanwhile is expected to hold steady in the United States, reaching 22 million hectolitres while Chile is due to produce 10 million.

New Zealand is heading for its new record with 3 million hectolitres, said the organisation.

France's public agricultural authority FranceAgriMer predicted the 2014 harvest would yield six million bottles.

"After two years of excessively low harvests, we're getting somewhat back to normal … we see good prospects at the start of this harvest," said Jerome Despey, head of FranceAgriMer's wine division.

Production is due to be up in the Champagne region but down in Languedoc-Roussillon, an area that was blighted by drought in spring, then hail.

France suffered two exceptionally poor harvests in 2013 and 2012, which saw record-low production due to cool temperatures and excessive rains.

Some vineyard owners in famed wine regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy saw their harvests nearly wiped out by severe hail storms

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Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts