From sunburnt grapes to frost: France expects a smaller 2019 wine harvest

Record heat ‘blowtorched’ grapes in Languedoc and frost hit hard in Jura, but a new report says bad weather after flowering is the main reason why French officials expect a smaller wine harvest in 2019.

France’s 2019 wine harvest was expected to shrink by between six and 13% versus 2018, said the agriculture ministry’s statistics unit, Agreste, this week.

It predicted a harvest of between 42.8 and 46.4 million hectolitres (hl)  – one hl is 100 litres. It did not assess potential quality.

Some winemakers disagree with forecasting the harvest when there is so much still to play for in the vineyards, but officials said rain and cold weather after the flowering period had reduced the potential crop in several regions.

‘Blowtorched’ grapes

Some areas had other specific problems.

Scorching temperatures at the end of June burnt grapes in parts of Languedoc-Roussillon, prompting a supportive visit from agriculture minister Didier Guillaume.

‘Some vines looked like they had been blowtorched,’ Jérôme Despey, president of the agriculture chamber in the Hérault area, was quoted as saying.

Local authorities issued an alert to winemakers this week ahead of another spike in temperatures, advising them to protect grapes from direct sunlight.

Frost

Further east, frost may have cut Jura wine production by 40% versus a ‘normal year’ and it also hit vineyards in Burgundy’s Mâconnais area.

Water stress

Water could become an issue if hot, dry weather continues.

Most areas were below the 30-year average for water content in the soil as of 1 July, said Agreste.

But, things looked brighter in Bordeaux – although temperatures this week in the city have hit the highest ever since records began.

Its overall harvest was still expected to shrink in 2019, yet the report said water stress was less severe and hot weather has reduced diseases pressure.

Some producers there might be see production increase after unprecedented mildew attacks in 2018; as ever, it is difficult to generalise.


See also: June French heatwave affects vineyard workers