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World wine production to fall in 2021 as extreme weather hits Europe

Global wine production is likely to fall in 2021 due to the 'severe impact' of climatic challenges in Europe, despite bigger vintages in several southern hemisphere countries, a new forecast from the International Organisation for Vine & Wine has estimated.

World wine production in 2021 is set to fall by 4% versus last year, to around 250 million hectolitres (mhl), equal to 25bn litres and close to the historic low witnessed in 2017, the International Organisation for Vine & Wine (OIV) has estimated.

Its figures are preliminary, but they highlight the ‘severe impact’ of ‘adverse climatic conditions’ on the 2021 vintage in parts of Europe, said OIV director-general Paul Roca during a virtual press conference.

Europe’s biggest producers, France, Spain and Italy, lost around 22mhl (2.2bn litres) of potential wine production to weather-related factors like frost, hailstorms and mildew, the OIV estimated.

France could see its smallest wine harvest for decades and Roca said it is likely to fall behind Spain to third in the world wine production league.

France’s 2021 harvest is expected to hit 34.2mhl, down 27% on 2020, with Spain on 35mhl, down 14%, the OIV said. Italy, the world’s biggest producer nation, is likely to see a 2021 harvest of 44.5mhl, down 9% on 2020.

Smaller harvests don’t necessarily mean poorer quality, and several winemakers have told Decanter that they remain optimistic about grapes that survived the 2021 conditions.

Roca also cautioned against assuming that wine lovers will see shortages. Even though the OIV expects global wine consumption to rise, he said, ‘we cannot say there will be a shortage, because there is inventory’. Stock levels may naturally vary by area, of course.

Many southern hemisphere countries saw bigger vintages in 2021. Australia and Chile both increased wine production by around 30% versus 2020, to 14.2mhl and 13.4mhl respectively. US wine production was likely to rise by 6% versus 2020, to 24.1mhl, but is down by 3% on the five-year average. Drought has hit yields in some areas.

On a global scale, though, 2021 is ‘the third year in a row that world wine production is below average’, Roca said.

Coming in the week of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, a significant amount of the OIV’s press conference was devoted to climate challenges.

Climate scientists have repeatedly warned of more frequent and erratic extreme weather events, which impact vineyards alongside whole communities.

Roca spoke of a ‘destabilisation’ of climatic conditions but also about the importance of work being done within the OIV and elsewhere to help winemakers adapt. ‘We have a lot of tools,’ he said.

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