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2013 French Harvest: Down But Not Out

Have the grey clouds of the spring finally disappeared in France?
© Rebecca Gibb | Have the grey clouds of the spring finally disappeared in France?
After a spring that most producers will want to forget, the sun has come out and it's hoped that the 2013 vintage will be worth remembering.

Wine producers across France will have their eyes fixed on the weather report in the weeks ahead, hoping that the worst is behind them.

The country’s vineyards have been ravaged by hail storms and heavy rains throughout the spring, delaying the harvest by at least two weeks. However, there are hopes that the current period of warm and settled weather will continue throughout the summer and into fall.

“The current weather report is favorable, flowering has finished, with the potential of a generous yield, but the summer months will determine the quality of the grapes and the wine,” explained Pascal Férat, president of the representative body of grape growers, the SGV, in Champagne.

Indeed, it’s still too early to tell whether the 2013 harvest will be a washout or be saved from the brink.

The only thing that growers are certain about is that the harvest will be late. “The harvest will not be as early as last year, that’s for sure,” said Jean Bourjade of Inter Beaujolais, the gamay-producing region's wine trade body.

It’s the same in Bordeaux: “We are two to three weeks behind, compared to a normal year. A beautiful summer, which is expected, will allow us to make up a week but we will certainly have a very late harvest,” said Benoît Purbet, vineyard manager for three châteaux in Bordeaux's Saint-Émilion region. 

In the Loire Valley, Jean-Martin Dutour, of the region’s winegrowing association, InterLoire. remains positive. “Compared to recent years, we are between 10 and 20 days behind. If we have good weather in the months of July, August and September, it may not be so late in the end."

Taking a long-term view, Champagne's Férat claims that the later harvest is not out of the ordinary. “It will be a late harvest compared to the last 10 years, but completely normal if you look at harvesting dates during the last century.”

While the Champagne region is expecting a reasonable crop, France is not expecting any records to be set this year.

In the Loire Valley, hail hit the vineyards of Vouvray in June. As a result, Dutour revealed that the appellation’s harvest would be low. “We estimate that the harvest will be 30 and 50 percent down.”

Cold, wet weather in May and June in Bordeaux has also reduced potential yields. “Without doubt we will harvest fewer bunches than usual,” reported Purbet.

On the other hand, Bourjade said Beaujolais producers were “more serene” than last year when the region experienced a very small harvest.

Although there are more than two month to go until harvest kicks off, comparisons are already being made. “Older growers say that the conditions this year – a rainy spring followed by a dry summer – reminds them of the 1983 vintage, which was a very good year,” said Jérôme Bauer, president of the Alsace growers’ association.

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