French wine production may fall 17 percent this year to a record low after spring frosts damaged vineyards, notably in the Bordeaux region. As Sonia Legg reports, the farm ministry fears the region could lose half its output.
It's harvest time in Chablis - one of France's finest wine regions But this autumn the vineyards aren't as busy as usual. Frosty nights earlier in the year have damaged the grapes. (SOUNDBITE) (French) OWNER OF PINSON DOMAIN, LAURENT PINSON, SAYING: "Now it's the harvest we can see that quantities are greatly diminished compared with what our expectations were. Across the fields, it could vary. We could have some with very high losses, possibly as much as 80-85 percent." France is the world's second largest wine producer after Italy. But estimates for this year's output suggest a 17 percent fall from last year to a record low. That's despite the farmers' best efforts. In April they used heaters, candles and even the warm down draught from helicopters. (SOUNDBITE) (French) LOUIS MOREAU VINEYARD OWNER, LOUIS MOREAU, SAYING: "We don't have seasons like we used to, where spring would come quietly, and then you have the summer. It's extreme straight away. And extreme can mean high, very hot, or low, very cold, very dry." Output across France had already fallen in 2016 with champagne down 20 percent. It seems to be recovering a bit this year and the Bourgogne and Beaujolais regions are expecting a 14 percent increase. That's a relief for some. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AMERICAN TOURIST, NATALIA, SAYING: "The wine? Amazing. So far, we've tried a handful, maybe five or six different wines, and every single one of them is just better than the other one." The quality then seems acceptable - but the impact on price may not be.