Summer Rain Favouring the Wine Harvest

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The summer in France has been reasonably good but there has been no shortage of rain – the kind of weather that favours the growth of grapes

If you had a rainy holiday in France this summer, you can at least take some consolation that it’s an ill shower of rain that doesn’t do some good. This year, the quantity of the national wine harvest in France could potentially end up close to 47 million hectolitres, according to Minister for Agriculture, whose office reviewed the estimates upwards for the 2014 vendanges or wine harvest.

If they’re right (and they usually are), the wine harvest will be up by 11% on the “very poor performances of 2012 and 2013” and by 3% compared to the average harvest quantity taken over the last 5 years, according to forecasts published by Agreste – the statistical service of the French Agricultural Ministry. These figures are based on information collected in mid-august so they aren’t final and are subject to review according to “climatic events and sanitary problems” that could crop up between now and vendanges time (traditionally between September and October in France).

“The historically low level harvests seen in 2012 and 2013 was the consequence of unfavourable climatic conditions, particularly at the time of flowering,” notes the Agreste report. 2014 has seen a return to an “almost normal rhythm”. The ripening process of the grapes was assisted by a Winter and a Spring that were quite mild, even though things freshened up in late Spring at times and there were “episodes of cool weather that were abnormally frequent throughout the summer.”

Some of those episodes did cause a lot of localized damage. Storms and in particular hail, caused “significant damage”, particularly in the Aude and Hérault departments. Production in the Languedoc-Roussillon region is back again by 9% compared to 2013 to 12.3 million hectolitres. Hail also affected a part of the Beaujolais region, but the outlook on return is still “stable in Bourgogne and Beaujolais”, where the rains have favoured “a significant swelling of the clusters.”

Still Looking Good: harvests in Beaujolais and Bourgogne are still likely to be good, despite hail damage

Still Looking Good: harvests in Beaujolais and Bourgogne are still likely to be good, despite hail damage

Despite the rainfall this summer, which also favours the development of illnesses that can affect the vines, “the majority of vineyards are in a state of rude health compared to the previous years.” In the Bordeaux region, “the sanitary state has been mastered” and the blooming went very well (unlike in 2013), which has led to the ministry service in reviewing their predictions upwards for this region to 6 million hectolitres.

At the end of July, the Agriculture Ministry had established an initial forecast of 46.4 million hectolitres. The public organisation umbrella organisation FranceAgriMer -representing agricultural interests near the sea in France – are less optimistic, however, predicting a harvest of 45.4 million hectolitres.

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