French Wine Outlook Cut Again as Hail Damages Bordeaux Vineyards

France cut its outlook for wine production for a second time in two months after hail damaged vineyards in the Bordeaux region and cold and humidity hurt pollination, leading to fruit losses.

Output may climb 7.5 percent to 44.5 million hectoliters (1.17 billion gallons) from 41.4 million hectoliters in 2012, the Agriculture Ministry wrote in a report today. The forecast was cut by 1.3 million hectoliters from a month ago, equivalent to 174 million bottles.

Hailstorms in the Bordeaux region at the start of August damaged vines in the Libournais area, which includes Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, as well as the Entre-Deux-Mers area, the ministry said. That caused losses estimated at about 600,000 hectoliters, equal to 78 million bottles.

“Many violent storms damaged vines on vast areas, especially in the Centre region, in Burgundy and above all in the Bordeaux region,” the ministry wrote.

Vines across the country suffered from failed grape development due to unpollinated flowers, called coulure by growers and caused by either unusually cold and humid conditions or excessive warmth. France’s average temperature in June was 0.7 degree Celsius (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) lower than normal, with excess rain in the southwest region that includes Bordeaux.

The ministry had forecast last month the volume of the 2013 vintage would be 45.8 million hectoliters, already down from an initial outlook in July of 46.6 million hectoliters.

Drought, Frost

Last year’s wine production was the country’s lowest in four decades after grapes suffered from drought, humidity, frost, disease and hail, with final output more than 10 percent below an initial forecast. The outlook has been lowered by 4.7 percent so far this year, equating to 292 million bottles.

France’s wine and champagne exports were valued at 7.84 billion euros ($10.3 billion) in 2012, accounting for 14 percent of the country’s farm and food shipments, trade data show.

Output in the Bordeaux region, typically France’s biggest producer of designated-origin wines, may fall 19 percent to 4.43 million hectoliters from 5.45 million hectoliters in 2012, the ministry forecast. Grape picking has been delayed by at least 15 days after a cold spring.

Burgundy and neighboring Beaujolais are suffering from small grapes, and the harvest will be the latest in 30 years, the ministry said. Combined output for the two regions is predicted to rise 21 percent to 2.18 million hectoliters, down from an August forecast of 25 percent.

Vineyard Conditions

In the Champagne region, production is forecast to jump 51 percent to 2.99 million hectoliters, with vineyards in good condition for now, the ministry said. Production slumped 35 percent last year.

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, based in Paris, 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 rise 10 percent to 13.2 million hectoliters, 1 percentage point less than expected in August. Output in the Loire valley may jump 41 percent to 2.79 million hectoliters, the ministry said.

Production in Alsace, known for its Riesling wines, is predicted to slide 11 percent to 1.04 million hectoliters after a cold spring resulted in fewer grapes.

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