Rotting Grapes From Bordeaux to Burgundy Cut French Wine Outlook

France cut its outlook for wine production for a fourth time after botrytis rot due to wet weather caused grape losses in Bordeaux and Burgundy, adding to damage from poor flowering and summer hailstorms.

The volume of the 2013 vintage may rise 2.2 percent to 42.3 million hectoliters (1.12 billion gallons) from 41.4 million hectoliters in 2012, the Agriculture Ministry wrote in a report late yesterday. The forecast was cut by 1.74 million hectoliters from a month ago, equivalent to 231 million bottles.

The threat of rot by botrytis fungus prompted growers in Burgundy, Bordeaux and southwest France to harvest early, sometimes picking not fully ripened grapes, the ministry said. Rot also forced “major sorting” and cut volumes in Alsace, the Loire Valley and Charentes, according to the ministry.

“Botrytis developed in an exceptional manner in October in the western regions, the southwest, Burgundy, Beaujolais and Alsace, favored by frequent rainfall,” the ministry wrote.

The rot at grape-picking time comes on top of a cold and wet spring that hampered flowering, and hail damage in Burgundy in July and Bordeaux in August.

France’s production of designated-origin wines is forecast to drop 3.1 percent to 19.1 million hectoliters, from last month’s outlook for volume to be little changed. The volume of wine for distilling is seen slipping 1.8 percent to 7.45 million hectoliters.

Chardonnay Grapes

Burgundy and Beaujolais suffered “major losses” during the harvest for white chardonnay grapes, the ministry said. The two regions are forecast to lift production 10 percent to 2 million hectoliters, from 2.19 million hectoliters a month ago.

Volume in the Bordeaux region, France’s biggest producer of designated-origin wines, may fall 23 percent to 4.18 million hectoliters, from 4.43 million hectoliters forecast last month.

Hailstorms in the Bordeaux region at the start of August damaged vines in the Libournais area that includes Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, as well as the Entre-Deux-Mers area. That caused losses estimated at about 78 million bottles.

In Charentes, the home of cognac, “poor weather conditions” resulted in strong development of botrytis, even on grape varieties not usually very susceptible to the disease such as ugni blanc, according to the report. Cognac brands owned by French producers include Remy Cointreau SA’s Remy Martin, which has origins dating to 1724, according to the company’s website.

Alsace Production

The volume for Charentes is expected to be little changed at 7.6 million hectoliters, compared to a previous outlook for output to climb 15 percent. In Alsace, production is predicted to slide 16 percent to 975,000 hectoliters, from 1.04 million hectoliters expected in the October report.

In the Champagne region, production is still forecast to jump 43 percent from 2012, when vines supplying grapes for the bubbly wine named after the region suffered from frost damage, mildew and the fungus oidium. The region’s wine volume is predicted to jump to 2.82 million hectoliters.

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.

France’s 2012 vintage was the smallest in more than four decades after grapes across the country suffered from drought, humidity, frost, disease and hail, with final output more than 10 percent below an initial forecast.

In Languedoc-Roussillon, France’s biggest wine region by total volume, the outlook was raised, with production seen rising 13 percent to 13.5 million hectoliters, from 13.2 million hectoliters predicted in October.

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