PARIS/BORDEAUX, France—French wine production should recover this year after a weather-ravaged 2017 campaign, forecasts on Aug. 24 showed, with a scorching summer boosting grape growth and allowing a very early harvest in eastern regions like Champagne and Alsace.
But fresh headaches for growers, notably the widespread cases of fungal crop disease mildew, could limit the rebound.
France’s agriculture ministry estimated total 2018 wine output at 46.1 million hectoliter’s (hl), up 25 percent from last year although at the low end of an initial forecast range of 46-48 million hl projected a month ago.
A hectoliter represents 100 liters, or the equivalent of about 133 standard wine bottles.
Last year, repeated bad weather including frosts and storms pushed production to a record low of 36.8 million hl.
In contrast, hot, dry weather this summer, which has hurt some crops in France like maize, has helped vineyards by curbing the mildew that spread during the wet spring, the ministry said.
“The situation in most vineyards remains favorable for production, it said in a report. “Since the end of June the spread of mildew seems to be have been halted by the drier weather.”
Champagne was expected to see a sharp rise in production, up 56 percent from last year to 3.5 million hl.
Eastern regions like Champagne and Alsace have experienced some of the most searing weather this summer. This accelerated grape growth and led to harvesting starting last week, an early timing that “is unheard of,” Jerome Despey, head of the wine committee at farming agency FranceAgriMer, told reporters.
Despey gave a lower forecast for French wine output at 44.5 million hl, closer to the average of recent years, stressing contrasts between areas like Champagne and southwestern zones like Bordeaux that were among the worst hit by the mildew and storms.
The impact of mildew was hard to measure, he said, while weather in the coming weeks could still shape the harvest, with late rain favoring grape size.
In the Bordeaux region, where harvesting of white grapes began last week, wine representatives were reluctant to make forecasts.
“In terms of quantity, we’ll have a harvest curbed by the hail and the mildew. To what extent, we have no idea,” Bernard Farges, vice president of industry group CIVB, said.
“For quality, all the indications are good,” he added.
By Gus Trompiz and Emmanuel Jarry in Paris and Claude Canellas in Bordeaux