Pour one out for Europe’s wine producers – it hasn’t been a vintage year

Harsh climate conditions mean wine production will be ‘extremely low’ in 2021

Concerning news has reached us from Paris, or more precisely from the Paris-based International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV): this year's volume of world wine production is expected to be "extremely low", and harsh weather is to blame.

A late spring frost and all-round unfavourable conditions have meant a particularly "unfortunate" year for wine producers in Italy, Spain and France which, combined, account for 45 per cent of world wine production.

The steepest decline will be suffered in France, which bore the brunt of a disastrous vintage after severe April frost was followed by summer rain, hailstorms and mildew – one consequence of this is that France has now slipped from being the world’s second-largest wine producer to third spot (behind Italy and Spain).

French wine production is expected to plummet 27 per cent year on year, the OIV said, while separate figures from agricultural statistics agency Agreste have suggested champagne volumes will be down 36 per cent in 2021, sinking to their lowest level in 40 years. Not much to celebrate there.

The only large EU wine-producing countries recording bigger harvests this year than in 2020 are Germany, Portugal, Romania and Hungary. The sun has shone on producers in the US, too, with production levels estimated to be 6 per cent higher than in wildfire-afflicted 2020, though they remain below the five-year average, partly due to drought-like conditions in some regions. Let’s also just gloss right over a new hiccup affecting the US market: a shortage of glass bottles.

Climate crisis

In the southern hemisphere, meanwhile, it has been a “very positive” year, thanks to relatively favourable climate conditions. But “relative” in this context means compared with recent years when they haven’t been so kind: Australian production, for instance, is up 30 per cent on 2020, when headline-making fires and what the industry refers to as “smoke taint” ravaged its vineyards.

Overall, world wine production will be down 4 per cent on last year, 7 per cent lower than the 20-year average and only slightly above the historically low levels seen in 2017. These are not “champagne problems” (internet slang for trivial issues). Indeed, the pattern of difficulty exemplifies the considerable upheaval already being faced by all manner of agribusiness producers as a result of the climate crisis.

Something to dwell on this weekend over a large goblet of red.