Rains mean bumper harvest for French wines

6th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 5, 2006 (AFP) - A wet month of August will mean a bumper grape crop for French vineyards, wine industry officials said Tuesday as harvesting got underway in several regions.

PARIS, Sept 5, 2006 (AFP) - A wet month of August will mean a bumper grape crop for French vineyards, wine industry officials said Tuesday as harvesting got underway in several regions.

According to Michel Legay of the National Wine and Horticulture Office (VINIFLHOR), volumes should be well in excess of the 53.6 million hectolitres which were predicted in July before the arrival of heavy rains across much of the country.

"Climatic conditions in August brought to an end the drought in southern areas, and brought large volumes of water to the west and north. It was a big boost to the vines," he said.

In 2005 France produced 53.3 million hectolitres and in 2003 -- when there was an unusual heatwave -- only 47.7 million hectoliters were made.

Though it was premature to speculate on the quality of the vintage, sugar content should not have been too greatly affected by the rains as temperatures remained high, Legay said.

Harvesting began for some Loire Valley wines on Monday and on Tuesday the Beaujolais region of eastern France followed suit. Grape-picking starts Wednesday in the Muscadet region of the west. Provence in the south began two weeks ago.

A high yield is not necessarily good news for producers and dealers, as France already produces a large annual surplus of wine and unsold stocks continue to build despite subsidies every year from the EU to distil large quantities.

In June the EU announced plans to reform the European wine sector, which according to Brussels produces an excess of 15 million hectolitres every year. The main proposal -- to rip up 400,000 hectares of vines across the EU -- is opposed by the French government and most French wine-growers.

France remains the world's number one exporter of wine, but the industry has been hit hard by growing competition from new producer countries as well as falling domestic consumption.

Figures last month showed signs of improvement in foreign wine sales for 2005, with medium range wines becoming competitive again for the first time in several years.

Worldwide sales of champagne meanwhile have reached record levels, according to figures released Tuesday. In the six months to June, 116 million bottles were exported -- up by 8.8 percent on 2005 -- according to the Union of Champagne Houses.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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