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France Wine Output Falls to 40-Year Low on Champagne, Beaujolais

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- France’s wine production slumped 20 percent to the lowest in at least 40 years after weather damage and disease caused harvests to plunge in the Champagne and Beaujolais regions.

Output fell to an estimated 40.7 million hectoliters (1.08 billion gallons) from 50.9 million hectoliters in 2011, the Agriculture Ministry wrote in an online report today. Production dropped 40 percent in the Champagne region, it said.

The damage to France’s grapes and vineyards means world wine output will be the smallest in at least 37 years, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine said Oct. 30. Italy will pass France as the biggest producer, the group estimates.

“This is the lowest harvest since at least 40 years,” the ministry wrote. “This year’s peculiarity is the variation in grape weight in the vineyards in most of the regions, resulting in disparate yields from one plot to the next.”

Grape harvesting has ended and production turned out 97,000 hectoliters higher than forecast a month ago, based on the estimate. France in an initial outlook in July had predicted wine production of 46.7 million hectoliters.

The country’s wine growers suffered winter drought, frost, wet conditions during flowering, damage from mildew and other funguses, hail storms that destroyed grapes in Burgundy and Beaujolais, an August heat wave and a dry September that caused drought stress and smaller grapes.

France exported 7.17 billion euros ($9.1 billion) of wine and champagne in 2011, accounting for 13 percent of the country’s farm and food exports. In the first half of this year, wine shipments rose 14 percent to 3.57 billion euros, government data show.

Champagne Region

Production in the Champagne region is estimated to have dropped to 1.82 million hectoliters from 3.04 million hectoliters in 2011 after damage caused by frost, mildew and particularly the fungus oidium, the ministry said.

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA is the world’s largest maker of champagne with brands including Moet & Chandon and Dom Perignon. Vranken-Pommery Monopole SA is the second-largest, followed by Pernod-Ricard SA and Laurent-Perrier.

Production of wines with a protected designation of origin, known by their French abbreviation AOP, is estimated at 19.4 million hectoliters, sliding 15 percent, the ministry said. Output of wine for making spirits including cognac and armagnac is seen at 6.98 million hectoliters, down 20 percent.

Burgundy and Beaujolais appellation wine volume is estimated at 1.8 million hectoliters, falling 27 percent.

Vineyards in the two regions suffered from late frost, repeated hail, “persistent” disease and poor fruit set, according to the ministry’s report. The greatest weather damage occurred in Beaujolais, where output fell 48 percent compared with the five-year average, the ministry said.

Bordeaux Volumes

Bordeaux-region AOP wine volumes dropped an estimated 3.6 percent to 5.29 million hectoliters, less than the 4.5 percent drop predicted a month ago. The region is France’s biggest producer of designated-origin wines.

In Languedoc-Roussillon, France’s biggest wine region by total volume, production of all wines slumped an estimated 20 percent to 11.8 million hectoliters. In the Loire Valley, AOP wine production fell an estimated 27 percent to 1.7 million hectoliters.

Italy’s wine output may decline 3.4 percent to 40.8 million hectoliters this year, making it the biggest producer, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine forecasts.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at

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