France’s Wine Stocks Reach 12-Year Low After 2012 Harvest Slide

France’s stocks of wine fell to the lowest in at least 12 years after the country’s production plunged 19 percent last year, crop office FranceAgriMer said.

French estates, cooperatives and other producers held 29.9 million hectoliters of wine at the Aug. 1 start of the season, equivalent to 4 billion bottles, from 34.7 million hectoliters at the start of 2012-13, Philippe Janvier, in charge of wine statistics at the crop office, told reporters today. That’s the lowest since at least 2001-02, the crop office said.

Last year’s wine-grape harvest was the smallest in at least 40 years after weather damage and disease, according to the Agriculture Ministry. Rising bulk wine prices more than made up for a drop in volumes sold in 2012-13, with the cost of bulk whites without a regional indication jumping 32 percent, FranceAgriMer data show.

Stocks “are at historically low levels, very much below the five-year average,” Janvier said in Montreuil-sous-Bois, France. “Due to the weakness of supply, prices rose to a rather high level.”

This year’s wine production will probably rise less than the 6.6 percent increase to 44.1 million hectoliters forecast by the Agriculture Ministry, based on the outlook provided by various regions, according to Eric Rosaz, in charge of wine industry at FranceAgriMer.

The ministry forecasts “are a bit optimistic,” Rosaz said. “We won’t be very far from 43.5 million hectoliters.”

2001-02 Low

Wine producers start the season with the lowest stocks since at least 2001-02, FranceAgriMer said, citing customs data. Inventories of wine with a protected designation of origin fell to 23.2 million hectoliters as of Aug. 1 from 25.8 million hectoliters a year earlier.

The biggest slide in wine inventories was noted in the combined regions of Burgundy, Beaujolais, Savoy and Jura, where stocks slumped 30 percent to 1.72 million hectoliters, according to the crop office.

The volume of wine held by producers in Bordeaux dropped 9 percent to 8.96 million hectoliters, while Champagne’s inventories fell 6 percent to 4.22 million hectoliters, according to FranceAgriMer. In the region of Languedoc-Roussillon, France’s biggest wine region by production, stocks at the start of August fell 16 percent to 7.34 million hectoliters. The wine year in France runs from Aug. 1 to July 31.

Still Wine

The volume of still wine held by merchants dropped about 3 percent to 13.2 million hectoliters, while inventories of sparkling varieties rose 13 percent to 7.9 million hectoliters, crop office data showed.

France’s sales of bulk wine with a regional indication rose 7 percent in 2012-13 to 606 million euros ($828 million), with higher prices for all varieties making up for smaller volumes of red and rose, FranceAgriMer said. Sales of wine with no regional indication rose 11 percent to 236.7 million euros.

The price of whites without a regional indication jumped 32 percent to an average 70.07 euros per hectoliter, while for bulk white wines with that indication average prices advanced 6 percent to 85.89 euros a hectoliter, according to FranceAgriMer.

Bulk reds rose 11 percent to an average 62.97 euros a hectoliter for those without a regional indication, while 2012-13 prices climbed 7 percent to 74.69 euros a hectoliter for red wine with the region indicated.

Of bulk wines with a protected designation of origin, Loire Valley whites posted the biggest price gain in 2012-13, on average jumping more than 60 percent, followed by red Beaujolais and red Burgundy wines with price gains of around 40 percent, the data showed.

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