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French harvest begins

The first grapes of the 2008 harvest in France were picked today in the southern French Roussillon region.

The grapes, destined for white wine production, were harvested early this morning in Rivesaltes, 2km north of Perpignan.

Although wine growers in France are not obliged to report the date they begin harvesting, the local wine body, the Conseil Interprofessionel des Vins du Roussillon (CIVR), said Domaine Cazes was the first producer to begin picking in the area.

‘It is about a week earlier than last year,’ said a spokesperson for the CIVR.

Domaine Cazes confirmed it had started picking and was bringing in grapes for its white wines.

‘We started at 6.15am and we are picking some of the Muscat a Petits Grains [a local grape variety] for our vin de pays,’ manager Emmanuel Cazes told decanter.com. ‘We will pick the rest later on to make our Rivesaltes.’

AOC Rivesaltes is a sweet white wine made in the area.

The 180ha (hectare) vineyard at Domaine Cazes is the largest organic and biodynamic vineyard in France. A team of 15 harvesters were called in to begin picking, which will continue into tomorrow. A harvesting machine will work overnight.

The majority of French growers harvesting proper will begin sometime after 20 August, continuing through September, and into November in some areas.

The French wine harvest is expected to be even smaller than last year, with the national agricultural body, Viniflhor, predicting a drop in wine volumes of about 12% on the five-year average.

Viniflhor estimates the total 2008 harvest volume will be 45.8m hectolitres, just under the 46.5m hectolitres harvested in 2007.

Written by Sophie Kevany

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