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Grape expectations: frost and drought hit wine production in Europe

Hail, frost and drought have hit Europe's grape harvest hard, making it the smallest in 36 years.

The European Union's Copa-Cogeca farm union said the extreme weather means the harvest is expected to be down 14%, with some areas seeing a drop of as much as a third.

That will cut wine production to a level not seen since 1981 at 145 million hectolitres. However, the quality of the wines is expected to be excellent.

The two biggest producers, France and Italy, are particularly badly affected, said Thierry Coste, chairman of the Copa-Cogeca wine division.

In France, production will be down 18%, and in Italy, the biggest wine producer in Europe, it will have sunk by 26% compared with last year. Sicily was hit by a decline of 35%.

"The quality of the grape is nevertheless expected to be very good across Europe, which should make for an excellent wine," Mr Coste said.

The combination of good wine and lower quantities means prices are likely to rise, he added.

During the 1980s, record wine production often hovered around the 210 million hectolitre mark. An industry preference to make less but better wine and a need to cut subsidies based on bulk has led to lower yields since then.

Extreme weather and climate change have also affected output in certain years.

Wine production almost never surpasses 170 million hectolitres a year any more, although this year's estimate is particularly low, and was last worse only in 1981.

The European wine grape harvest has an automatic impact on the global market since EU production accounts for 60% of worldwide output.

AP

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