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France has smallest harvest since 1957

his would be the third consecutive year where the global production level is below average

In global terms, the 2021 vintage is set to be one of the "extremely low" quantities, the OIV (International Vine and Wine Organization) announced this week. Speaking from its soon-to-be-vacated HQ in Paris (regular Sunday Readers will know the OIV will relocate to Dijon), the organization indicated production this year could drop to 2017 levels, and could possibly drop even lower, making it the smallest vintage of the century.

"This would be the third consecutive year where the global production level is below average," the organization said on Thursday.

While the growing season woes of western Europe are well known (devastating spring frosts, with Hail, mildew and drought pressure in the summer, and a sometimes wet end-of-season Harvest), production elsewhere - especially in the Northern Hemisphere - has not significantly grown. In the US, for instance, while year-on-year production went up by six percent, this was still down three percent on the five-year average.

The Southern Hemisphere saw a strong growth trend across the board, apart from New Zealand, which saw year-on-year production drop by 19 percent and average production down 13 percent. This was an anomaly in the global south, however, with Australia reversing four years of declining production and making 2021 the biggest harvest in the last five years at just over 14 million hectoliters.

Chile posted similar stats to Australia and overtook Argentina in terms of volume (the latter's Harvest was still five percent above average); South African production, while not hitting the Highs of 2016, gets ever-closer with small year-on-year and average growth; and Brazil punched hard, posting a 3.6 million hectoliter Harvest (a gain of 60 percent on 2020 and almost 50 percent above average).

But none of this was enough to offset the damage done to the big three in western Europe. Italian production dropped nine percent (year-on-year and average) and Spain dropped to 2017 and 2019 levels (also down nine percent, on average).

But production was the hardest hit in France, where the 2021 vintage is set to be smaller than that of 2017. Production this year is down by over a quarter on 2020 and down 22 percent on the five-year average.

According to OIV director Pau Roca, 2021 would see France's "lowest production volume since 1957".

For the rest of Europe, things were patchy. Despite the devastating floods in the Ahr, German production was marginally up, as was that in Portugal, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Georgian production surged (53 percent up, year-on-year) while Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece and Switzerland were all down - the latter three significantly. Both Bulgaria and Moldova countered the downward Trends of the last few years.

"The impact of this downfall on the global wine sector is yet to be assessed given the current context where the Covid-19 Pandemic is still generating a relatively high degree of volatility and uncertainty," said the OIV in closing.

"Mother Nature absolutely cannot play a bad turn on [winegrowers] again," said Laurence Girard in French national broadsheet Le Figaro.

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