French minister of agriculture, Stéphane Le Foll announced recently: “This year’s grape volume is exceptionally low.” What will be the consequences on the price of wine, and its quality?
Bernard Germain (Director of the Wine Cooperative of Muscat de Frontignan) has rarely seen such an important downturn: “This year 2012, grape harvest will be terrible, it’ll represent a 15% falloff compared to last year’s. It’s been cold and it’s been windy. Everywhere, the climatic conditions during blooming season were bad and we’ve had drought conditions beyond normal. We’ll have less grapes and they will be smaller in size.”
This problem is affecting most wine regions of France, and represents an estimated loss of 0.6 billion liters. This has not happened since 1991, when extremely cold temperature and frost damaged lots of vineyards. This estimated drop in wine production will have definite consequences on wine prices. Olivier Poels (Editor in Chief at La Revue Du Vin De France) agrees: “If we take wine production and consumption as a whole, we’re not doing very well. There are a lot of small vineyards that are barely making it. The winemakers who don’t have a lot wine to sell this year, will probably raise their prices a little in order to maintain a steady revenue.”
The wine industry is particularly scrutinized by the government and other private associations. Wine and spirits export industry represents a large source of income for the French economy, as it soared to a new record of 10.1 billion euros in 2011, coming second only to aerospace! France will have to patiently wait until harvest (scheduled to start between Sept. 15th and 20th) in order to know the quality of its 2012 vintage. It will mostly depend on the weather during the month of September.
Based on the feedback received from various winemakers so far, the quality of the wine should not be affected, only its quantity. It remains to be seen if and when any of this activity will have an effect outside of France. Being the largest exporter of wine in the world, one might say it is possible. Certainly exported French wine will become more costly with less product. But they will still need to compete with other countries’ wines. So only time will tell how this will play out and if this will have any impact at your local wine store.
Wine fact: France produces an average of 4.5 billion liters per year and remains the largest wine producer in the world, along with Italy. The two countries have long sparred over the top slot, with the winner’s mantle switching back and forth from year to year. Most of the variability can be attributed to changes in growing conditions from year to year; wine grapes are notoriously susceptible to shifts in weather, very much like the one we are experiencing this year.
Both Italy and France consistently produce far more than the third-biggest producer, Spain (3.6 billion liters), who in turn produces far more than the fourth-biggest, the United States (2.2 billion liters).