French wine harvest halves to smallest in 20 years

Written by Staff Writer

This story was first published on August 19, 2014.

This winter’s bitterly cold temperatures have finally shrunk the French grape harvest, one of the largest in history.

A nationwide slow-down in vine harvesting — which normally boosts economic activity — as vineyard temperatures dipped below 13°C (56°F) has contributed to an overall decline in the fruit’s quality compared to last year.

The drier than average spring and a cool start to summer as well as late frost in many areas of northern France have delayed the harvest, according to analyses by Christie’s Auction House .

By mid-August, winemakers had pruned just 56% of their vines, compared to 75% this time last year.

“In terms of output, we’re still going to be about 7% ahead of last year. But unfortunately that surplus is being used for the grapes that got left over from last year, rather than fermenting for the most tender and rich grape of all — the grenache,” Christophe Bonville, head of the French wine at Christie’s Paris, said to CNN.

“It’s the value of the overall quality that’s down … There’s no doubt that the cooler weather affects the overall quality of the wines,” said Bonville.

French Grenache Estate Melendezin

Corkage levels, which are aimed at boosting values for sellers, are also going to be quite low this year in part due to the decreased weight.

Each wine jar contains 45 grams of grapes, which means buyers will have to pay around 40 cents a bottle to pick up the bulk.

“We expect that corkage will be less than last year,” says Bonville. “Price for each bottle is set in a transparent process and that’s the driver of pricing.”

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