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Fewer grapes for French wine

Spring frost that hurt early buds is partly to blame. Some growers also uprooted vines.

September 10, 2008|From Bloomberg News

French winemakers will harvest fewer grapes this year than in 2007 because spring frost hurt early buds and some growers uprooted vines to combat overproduction.

The smaller harvest in France comes at a time when California winemakers believe that the state's wine grape crop could be 15% smaller than last year.

Total production in France will probably fall about 5% to 1.2 billion gallons, according to Paris-based industry group Viniflhor. That's "much lower" than the average harvest in the last five years, Viniflhor said in a statement on its website.

Vineyards in Bordeaux, Provence and other southern regions were particularly affected after buds that had developed early thanks to mild winter temperatures froze at the outset of spring. Bourgogne, Alsace, Champagne and other northern areas were spared since vines mature later there because of a colder climate.

"The cold that arrived in late March had a direct impact on some vineyards," Viniflhor said. "From the Bordeaux region to Provence, the frost wreaked havoc on April 6 and 7, at a critical period when the buds are very vulnerable."

Winemakers also had to combat mildew after April rains, according to the statement.

"The health of the grapes was preserved, but only thanks to treatments that were sometimes very costly," the industry group said.

Some producers chose to uproot unprofitable vineyards to receive compensation from the European Union, which seeks to limit production and improve quality. In the Rhone-Alpes region alone, vineyards covering about 3,800 acres were torn up, according to Viniflhor.

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