France's 2021 wine harvest could be the smallest in decades

A preliminary estimate released by France’s agriculture ministry shows that the 2021 wine harvest will be one of the smallest in at least 50 years. The output is likely to decrease by 24% – 30% across France, said Agreste, France agriculture ministry statisticians.

That means the average wine production in France may fall to between 32 million to 35 million hectoliters, which is smaller than any other year since 1970. It is important to note that these numbers are still subject to change pending the completion of the 2021 harvest across France. The forecast is expected to be updated at the start of September.

Bourgogne Vineyard

The forecast further highlights the level of damage caused by this April’s severe spring frosts that impacted wine regions around France, including:

  • Bordeaux
  • Bourgogne
  • Champagne

April’s frost affected up to 80% of grapevines in regions throughout the county, resulting in $2 billion worth of damage.

For early-budding grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Merlot, frost can be a more significant issue. Vignerons in Bourgogne were most concerned about their Chardonnay, which typically begins to bud earlier than Pinot Noir.

Bordeaux Chateaux

When the frost hit Champagne, it had a huge impact. The agriculture ministry report says that 30% of first buds were lost, and most of the losses occurred in Chardonnay grapes. Champagne’s advantage over other regions is that producers here can use wines held in reserves to make up for shortfalls in any one vintage.

The agriculture ministry report only provides a general guide, as the impact of extreme weather on each vineyard location in a particular region can vary. While these numbers are not yet confirmed, it is clear that France’s wine production will decrease. This decrease in production could drive prices higher for consumers and demand more wine in the United States from other regions such as Italy and Spain.