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A good year for French wine despite drop in production

Pascal Guyot, AFP | A winemaker in the Languedoc-Roussillon speaks to Prime Minister Manuel Valls on August 11, 2015

The French grape harvest was slightly lower in 2015 compared to last year due to a lack of rain, but industry professionals are still expecting an exceptional vintage.

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The French ministry of agriculture’s figures are always eagerly awaited by wine lovers the world over, particularly since France reclaimed its status as the world’s top wine producer last year after a two-year slump due to heavy rains and low temperatures.

The ministry announced on Monday that the nation of wine lovers is on track to produce 46.5 hectolitres of wine in 2015, a decrease of 1 percent compared to 2014.

France has just made its way through the third-hottest July since 1900 with less than half the rain than usual, according to French meteorologists, which impacts the size of the grapes.

The ministry’s statistics department said the year’s harvest should nevertheless still be higher than the annual average for the past five years, or 45.6 million hectolitres of wine.

The ministry figures were on par with the industry’s own estimates, which said on Saturday that France would produce 46 million hectolitres of wine in 2015.

The agriculture ministry added that recent improved meteorological conditions could even push the figures higher in the coming weeks.

Less Burgundy

The hot summer has moved up this year’s grape harvest by a few weeks in many regions of France.

Some wine appellations in the southern Languedoc-Roussillon region began harvesting two weeks ago. The region, which produces a lot of red table wines, was expected to yield 6 percent more wine (13.5 million hectolitres) than last year.

However, production was expected to decrease in certain renowned wine-growing areas. Output in the regions of Burgundy and Champagne were both expected to fall by 11 percent in comparison to 2014.

A very good year

Despite the slight decline in volume in France, winegrowers are promising an exceptional 2015 vintage.

“It’s turning into a rather good year, thanks to full ripeness, with very promising flavours and fermentation,” Jérôme Despey, president of the FranceAgriMer trade group, told AFP.

While many French agricultural sectors struggled through the heat wave and ensuing drought this summer, Despey said those conditions were good for vineyards.

Key sector for France

The French foreign ministry reported in 2014 that wine production is the country’s second-largest export sector, which directly or indirectly employs more than 558,000 people.

Some 30 percent of the wine produced in France is for export, 54 percent of this being to Europe. France’s main customers, in terms of value, are Britain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United States, Russia, Canada and Japan.

It is the agrifood sector with the largest surplus and the sector with the second-largest surplus overall, after aerospace and ahead of chemicals and perfumes.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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