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France expects bigger 2022 wine harvest but drought is a concern

French wine production is expected to rebound from the small 2021 vintage, but drought may yet derail forecasts, a government report has said.

France’s 2022 wine harvest is likely to be between 42.6 million and 45.6m hectolitres, up by 13% to 21% on the frost-hit 2021 vintage and more in-line with the country’s five-year average. One hectolitre is equivalent to 100 litres.

Yet drought could impact on yields in the coming weeks, adding extra uncertainty in several regions, said the French agriculture ministry’s Agreste statistics unit.

Expected vintage quality isn’t covered by the preliminary outlook. It added the 2022 growing season is generally running ahead of schedule, meaning harvest is likely to start relatively early this year.

France has had its driest July since 1959, according to ecological transition minister Christophe Béchu.

While some degree of water stress at certain times of year can be beneficial for vintage quality, prolonged dry spells may also hamper vine development and reduce yields.

Alsace has seen particularly low rainfall since spring and was expected to see 2022 production below its five-year average, said the agriculture ministry report. The average weight of bunches was below the 10-year average, particularly for Gewürztraminer, it said.

However, a smaller vintage can still be of high quality and it is often hard to generalise between vineyard sites.

Bordeaux’s 2022 vintage was expected to be smaller overall than its five-year average, after spring frost and June hailstorms affected 10,000 hectares of vines to varying degrees, France’s agriculture ministry said. Harvest was set to begin in mid-August, it added.

Faced with heatwaves and drought, winemakers in parts of Bordeaux, including the Pomerol appellation, have been given special permission to irrigate some vineyards this year.

Martin Krajewski, owner of Château Séraphine in Pomerol, said the level of heatwave-related stress was terroir-dependent, even across the estate’s two small parcels, but that vines were just about coping.

He said winemaker Charlotte Krajewski and the vineyard team recently did a second green harvest ‘to remove any bunches that have been heat affected or are “sunburnt” and to reduce the stress of the vines that are suffering, but as we usually crop at around 30/35hl [hectolitres per hectare] we are not yet too worried about the eventual volumes’.

While the team was hoping for some rain, he added, ‘We were also not affected by frost in Pomerol or by hail and it’s all still out there to play for as we approach the final month of the 2022 growing year.’

In Burgundy, vineyards were in good health and 2022 production was anticipated to be above the five-year average, the agriculture ministry report said.

In Champagne, the growing season was running about 12 days ahead of the 10-year average and rains in June helped to replenish soils, the report said. Champagne’s yield limit for the 2022 harvest was recently set as the highest in more than a decade.

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