Poor season leaves French champagne makers with little to celebrate

This year's champagne harvest could be the worst in 20 years
This year's champagne harvest could be the worst in 20 years DR

French champagne makers say this year’s harvest could be one of the worst in 20 years following a poor season.


A cold and wet spring marked by heavy rain, destructive hail storms and late frosts reduced the number of grapes and promoted a vine disease that leads to uneven-sized grapes.

“The vines suffered every possible disaster up to the middle of the summer,” Thibault Le Mailloux, a spokesman for the Champagne wine board (CIVC) in the French wine-making region, told news agency AFP.

  • Champagne is France’s most popular alcoholic export, earning 2.1 billion euros in 2011.
  • Cognac brandy is now second, earning 2.04 billion euros.
  • Bordeaux wine (Claret to the British) come third, earning two billion euros.

However, there is some good news thanks to a hot and sunny August, meaning the chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes that go into the king of sparkling wines will be packed full of flavour.

The CIVC has set maximum permitted yields at 11,000 kilograms per hectare across the region, translating to a potential 220.5 million bottles, which is 12 percent down on last year.

Wine makers could benefit from the lower output as demand for the drink, traditionally associated with good times and celebrations, falls in response to the poor economic climate.

In the first half of this year, champagne sales were down 6.6 percent on the same period last year, largely because of slumping demand in France and lower orders from the rest of Europe.

Sales outside of the European Union fell slightly by 0.8 percent.

This year’s harvest is expected to start in the middle of September and could last for up to a month.

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