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WINE

Summer heat to shrivel French wine production

As the summer sun continues to bake most of France, concerns are growing for the 2015 wine harvest which experts say could be threatened if the hot weather continues. Luckily this year's tipple should still taste good.

Summer heat to shrivel French wine production
The summer sun might be great for holidaymakers but not for wine producers. Photo: AFP

A long period of hot weather threatens to hit the wine harvest in France's famous Burgundy and Beaujolais regions, experts said on Tuesday.

Production could be down, although quality will remain high, they said although the weeks ahead will be decisive.

“Basically we won't really know anything until the end of August,” Virginie Larramona from the association Grands Crus CLassés de Saint Emillion told The Local.

“If we get too much rain or a drought it can change everything,” she said. 

But output could fall by as much as a third in Beaujolais, said Florence Hertaut, wine expert at the agricultural chamber of commerce in the Rhone region.

“The dryness has meant that the grapes, the fruit, are especially small,” she told AFP.

Christine Monany, from an association representing wine-growers in Burgundy, said a “small decline in quantity can be expected due to the heat.”

“When the vine lacks water, this limits how long it can grow,” she said.

Much-needed weekend rain “allowed the vines to get going again but the grapes are still small. They will grow a little bit but they will not reach a normal size,” said Monany.

While the heatwave is expected to have an impact on the quantity produced, the quality is still expected to be high.

Hertaut said the heat has produced “very healthy” vines, as it has dried up any hint of dampness, which can lead to fungus diseases impacting the grapes.

In Burgundy, “we can even expect an excellent crop” even if “it is the last few weeks which will be decisive.”

France has just sweltered through its third-hottest July since 1900 with less than half the amount of rain than usual, according to French meteorologists.

“In terms of the dryness on the ground, the situation remains tense over a large part of the country,” said Francois Vinit from Meteo France, the national weather forecaster.

This has also had an impact on other French food production. Cabbage and corn crops could be down as much as 50 percent, according to local producers.

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FARMING

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

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