World wine production at lowest level in more than 60 years

Between early frosts, torrential rains, mold and droughts, world wine production fell 7% this year, to its lowest level since 1961, according to an estimate by the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV ) published this Tuesday.

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France, with stable production, has once again become the world’s top supplier of wine ahead of Italy, where production fell by 12%, the OIV said in its first assessment of the 2023 harvest.

A winemaker for more than twenty years in Loreto Aprutino in central Italy, 43-year-old Antonella di Tonno has never experienced such a disastrous harvest, with hail and long periods of torrential rain followed by severe drought.

At the end of June, “a violent hailstorm fell on one of our six-hectare vineyards in Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, destroying 60% of its production in a few minutes,” the estate’s owner told AFP Talamonti winery.

Yellowed and dry leaves, grapes covered with white mold: another scourge due to rains associated with heat, mildew, attacked the vineyards cultivated on 44 hectares on the slopes of the Gran Sasso massif in the Apennines.

“We have suffered a 25% drop in our production, red and white grapes combined, compared to an average of 40% in our region, Abruzzo. We are doing quite well thanks to precision instruments such as humidity sensors”, he says.

“Undoubtedly, there are businesses in Abruzzo and southern Italy that are at risk of not surviving, the vineyards in the north have better resisted the ravages of climate change,” notes Antonella di Tonno.

Italy, with 504 grape varieties that each require a different ripening time, is particularly “exposed to the effects of capricious weather, given that harvest operations there last more than 100 days, the longest duration in ‘Europe’, the main agricultural union Coldiretti recently stressed.

Reduction in demand

The phenomena that have affected the vineyards this year are very disparate and it has not yet been proven that they are directly linked to climate change, says Inaki Garcia de Cortazar-Atauri, from the Inrae agricultural research institute.

The consequences of the heavy rains in Italy, for example, are also linked to the artificialization of soils, this specialist in the impact of climate change on agriculture explains to AFP.

On the other hand, “we can observe that we have more and more recurrent extreme events” such as heat waves or intense rains in certain areas, which add to long-known scourges such as mildew.

Wine production should total between 241.7 and 246 million hectoliters, according to information collected by the OIV in 29 countries that represent 94% of world production.

In the Northern Hemisphere, such as Italy, wine production suffered particularly from several dangers in Spain (-14%) and Greece (-45%).

In France, even if production stabilizes as a whole, there are important disparities, the OIV points out.

Bordeaux and the south-west region faced the spread of downy mildew while Languedoc-Roussillon was hit by heat waves and drought.

However, “particularly large” volumes are expected in Cognac, Corsica and Champagne, the OIV underlines.

In the southern hemisphere, Australia (-24%), Argentina (-23%), Chile (-20%) and South Africa (-10%) were particularly affected.

Some countries fared well, starting with the United States (+12%), which maintained its place as the world’s fourth largest supplier, thanks to cool temperatures and heavy winter rains in the Napa and Sonoma wine regions.

The fall in production is not necessarily bad news, however, the OIV notes.

“With global consumption in decline and high inventories in many regions of the world, this expected low production could rebalance the global market,” the organization stresses.

The fact that France has once again become the world’s leading producer leaves the president of the Vignerons Coopérators de France, Joël Boueilh, indifferent. “I prefer to have winemakers who produce wines that sell well,” he said during a press conference in mid-October.