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French Wine Outlook Is Cut on Poor Flowering, Berry Development

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Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- French wine production is forecast to rise 11 percent this year, less than predicted a month ago on poor flowering and berry development in regions including Bordeaux and Burgundy. The forecast for Champagne was raised.

Output may rise to 45.8 million hectoliters (1.21 billion gallons) from 41.4 million hectoliters in 2012, the Agriculture Ministry wrote in a report today. The outlook was cut by 888,000 hectoliters, equivalent to 118 million bottles.

A cold and humid June resulted in unpollinated flowers and falling berries, called coulure by growers, as well as unevenly developed bunches, or millerandage, the statement showed. June was chilly this year, while the southwest had excessive rainfall, according to the weather office.

“Flowering for most of the important wine regions was poor because of these unfavorable weather conditions,” the ministry said. “Weather conditions at the end of June and start of July caused coulure and millerandage, which proved to be significant in some regions and for some varieties, resulting in a downward revision of the production potential.”

France exported 7.84 billion euros ($10.4 billion) of wine and champagne in 2012, accounting for 14 percent of the country’s farm and food shipments, government data show.

Production in the Bordeaux region, France’s biggest producer of designated-origin wines, may fall 7.8 percent to 5.03 million hectoliters from 5.45 million hectoliters in 2012, the ministry forecast, reversing an outlook for the vintage to increase 7.9 percent.

In Bordeaux, “couloure and millerandage were significant, mainly for merlot,” the ministry wrote, referring to the grape variety used for red wines by vintners including Chateau Petrus. “Production potential is therefore revised lower.”

Chardonnay Variety

Burgundy suffered from coulure, particularly in vines of the chardonnay variety, while neighboring Beaujolais suffered from millerandage, the ministry said. Combined output in both regions is predicted to rise 25 percent to 2.26 million hectoliters, less than the 34 percent jump forecast a month ago.

Output in the Champagne region is forecast to jump 56 percent to 3.01 million hectoliters from 1.98 million, with the outlook raised from 2.24 million hectoliters in July. Flowering and fruit set in July went well, 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 ranks second, followed by Pernod-Ricard SA and Laurent-Perrier.

In Languedoc-Roussillon, France’s biggest wine region by total volume, production is forecast to advance 11 percent to 13.3 million hectoliters, 2 percentage points less than predicted last month. Output in the Loire valley may surge 41 percent to 2.79 million hectoliters, according to the ministry, which had previously predicted a 35 percent gain.

“In the Loire Valley, thanks to a warm July, the vineyard caught up part of its initial growing delay,” the ministry wrote. “The vines’ vigor is great thanks to humid soils and the warmth.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net

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