Plenty has been written about the adverse weather conditions during the spring and early summer of 2017, and their likely effect on wine harvests. Officials are now in a position to estimate the damage done to French wine production.
Experts have predicted that the wine harvest from 2017 will fall to ‘historic lows’ because of the frosts during the early spring. The French wine harvest for this year is predicted to fall by 17%, down to between 37m hectolitres (the equivalent to 4.9 billion bottles) and 38.2 million hectolitres. The figures for 2016 stood at 45.5 million hectolitres.
Lower than average
This would make the 2017 vintage a historic low and a full 16% lower than the average over five years. It will be worse than the vintage from 1991, which was also hit hard by frosts and bad weather.
What will this mean for buying certain French wines? The poor harvest could mean that specific wines are more difficult to track down, and therefore more expensive. The poor harvest is compounded by the fact that, for some regions, it’s the second year in a row when the vineyards have been badly affected by frost and hail.
Bordeaux production cut by half
A recent report shows that the production of Bordeaux this year could be hugely impacted, with a likely 50% fall in production.
Some estates used their extensive resources to mitigate the weather with frost avoidance techniques, such as circulating the air over vineyards with helicopters. And it’s not all doom and gloom with some on the Right Bank reporting positive flowering and ripening. It’s expected also that the Champagne harvest will increase by 8% this year, and while this is positive news it’s still 9% down on the 2012-2016 average.
Frost and hailstorms
Among the worst affected by frost are the Côte de Nuits and some parts of Chablis, while hail decimated parts of Fleurie. Over in Alsace, it looks like production will fall by 30% when compared to 2016, with the Gewurztramine variety hit hardest thanks to the fact that it buds early.
Hard frosts also damaged vineyards in both the Hérault and Aude regions, with production falling by 6%. Similarly, production has been cut by 10-40% in some parts of the Loire, but overall this region’s growers are in luck as production is set to rise by 7% over 2016, as last year suffered from frosts too.
Early summer weather was hotter than average, which has brought the growing season across the whole country ahead of the normal pace, something that could help the grapes that have survived to fully ripen.