(Paris) Unless there is a disaster before the harvest, French wine production is expected to be “at the average level” in 2023. Most wine-growing areas have withstood the ravages of climate and disease, with the notable exception of Bordeaux, hit by mildew.

“Wine production would be between 44 and 47 million hectoliters in 2023, at the average level” of the years 2018 to 2022, the ministry’s statistical service, Agreste, reported on Tuesday.

These harvest forecasts “are provisional in view of the uncertainty surrounding the consequences of the attacks of mildew in the vineyards of Bordeaux and the South-West”, specifies Agreste.

Especially since the very first strokes of the secateurs have just been given – last week in the vineyards of Fitou, in the south of France – and that the harvest will be spread out until the beginning of autumn.

In the world’s top three wine producers with Spain and Italy, France had produced more than 46 million hectoliters of wine in 2022 despite the exceptionally dry summer.

“Bordeaux and the South-West are particularly affected by attacks of mildew”, a disease which has proliferated thanks to the association, in the spring, of high temperatures and thunderstorms accompanied by heavy rains.

The damage is still impossible to assess: mildew will not be more severe, but the vineyard may still suffer from bad weather between now and the start of the harvest, expected in early September for Sauvignon Blanc and mid-September for Merlot (around 60% of surfaces), according to the director of communication of the Bordeaux Wine Interprofessional Council (CIVB), Christophe Château.

A prosperous vintage would not have been good news either in this vineyard in the doldrums, weighed down by overproduction.

Nearly 10,000 hectares of vines (out of 110,000) should be uprooted in Bordeaux, after the harvest, to regulate supply and restore prices under a plan co-financed by the State and the CIVB. France will also subsidize the destruction of surplus red and rosé wines (the wine will be distilled into alcohol unfit for consumption). The Bordeaux and Languedoc basins, further south, are the first applicants.

In Languedoc-Roussillon, “production should not deviate too much from the average” of the last five years despite “persistent drought”, notes the Agreste statistical service.

The news will not delight producers who are already struggling to sell previous vintages.

The situation “is going to be catastrophic” after the harvest, with “cellars already full” and traders who “can’t sell a litre” for months due to the drop in consumption linked to inflation, said declared to AFP Jean-Philippe Granier, technical director within the union of the AOC Languedoc.

“We produce too much, the selling price is lower than the cost price, so we lose money”, lamented Mr. Granier, in favor of a grubbing-up campaign as in Bordeaux “so that people refocus on what they know how to do well and produce what they sell”.

Apart from Languedoc-Roussillon and the South-West in crisis, the time has come for cautious optimism from Alsace to Corsica.

In Champagne, “the grapes are well supplied” and the diseases “contained”. Burgundy was affected by episodes of hail, but the damage remained marginal: “The potential is promising, with numerous bunches, despite the pressure of mildew at times”, notes Agreste.

In Corsica, “if the weather conditions remain mild, we could have a very nice vintage in sufficient quantity,” observes Nathalie Uscidda, general manager of the island’s wine research center (CRVI).

A thousand kilometers away, in Loire-Atlantique, “it should be a good harvest”, also believes Gwenaël Barré, who notably produces Muscadet. However, “we always remain cautious as long as the harvest is not in the cellars: a storm, hail, there can always be a disaster. »

Climate change has accustomed winegrowers to increasingly early harvests. This year promises to be more “usual” for the winemaker, with an expected start “at the very beginning of September”, compared to the end of August last year.