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WINE

French wine production set for ‘historic low’ after disastrous frosts and wet summer

France's wine output this year will go on record as one of the worst in history, after severe spring frosts devastated vines, the Agriculture Ministry said on Friday.

French wine production set for 'historic low' after disastrous frosts and wet summer
France wine production in 2021 is set to fall below output seen in 1991 and 2017, when frosts wrecked vines. Photo: Raymond Roig / AFP

The world’s second-largest wine producer after Italy is likely to see production drop between 24 and 30 percent in 2021, taking it to a “historically low” level, the ministry said.

It is already certain to fall below output seen in 1991 and 2017, the two most recent years of disastrous harvests, which followed bouts of late frost.

“For now, it looks like the yield will be comparable to that of 1977, a year when the the vine harvest was reduced by both destructive frost and summer downpours,” the ministry said, raising concerns that this year’s harvest could be the worst on record.

Several nights of frost in early April caused some of the worst damage in decades to crops and vines across the country, including its best-known and
prestigious wine-producing regions from Bordeaux to Burgundy and the Rhône valley to Champagne.

Overall output, also affected by an onslaught of mildew prompted by heavy summer rains, is projected to come at in between 32.6 and 35.6 million hectolitres, the ministry said. A hectolitre is the equivalent of 100 litres, or 133 standard wine bottles.

The 2020 wine harvest was around 45 million hectolitres, the Agriculture Ministry announced last September. That had followed a mild winter and the second warmest Spring in 120 years.

As well as wine producers, growers of kiwis, apricots, apples and other fruit have been badly hit along with farmers of other crops such as beet and rapeseed.

Apricot production is headed for its worst year in more than four decades, the ministry said, falling by half from its average seen over the previous five years.

Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie has called the frost attack “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century”.

Some scientists say that climate change has sharply increased the odds of such events happening again.

World Weather Attribution, an international organisation that analyses the link between extreme weather events and global warming, said in a study in June that a warmer climate had increased the probability of an extreme frost coinciding with a growing period by 60 percent.

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CULTURE

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?

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