Wet summer weather may herald good French wine year

Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:31pm EDT
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By Marcel Michelson

PARIS (Reuters) - Holidaymakers may deplore the wet weather in France this summer but the silver lining to all those cloudy days at the beach may eventually be a good to "exceptional" year for French wine.

Many wine experts say only the return of heavy rain, storms, hail or locusts in the latter part of the growing season will interrupt what appears to be a harvest set to benefit from some unusual weather this year.

Vintners all over the country have found a new spring in their steps after a dismal start to the growing season that made them fear for the worst. France is the world's biggest wine exporter in value and the sector employs 120,000 people and generates 18 billion euros ($25 billion) in revenues.

During a dry spring, the vines searched for water and their roots burrowed deep into the ground while the growth of grapes was given lesser priority.

When the rain did come, at a time when July tourists were hoping for the sunny beaches, the water irrigated the vines and put the harvest back on track.

Jérôme Despey, the head of the wine sector at France AgriMer, an agriculture and fisheries body, said the harvest would be 10 to 30 days early and be superior in volume to 2010.

He told Europe 1 radio recently that the harvest was estimated at 47.6 millions hectoliters, which is more than the 45.3 millions hectoliters of 2010.

CHABLIS   Continued...

<p>Empty outside tables of a restaurant are seen along a beach during summer holidays in Lacanau near Bordeaux, Southwestern France, July 21, 2011. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau</p>