Production across Europe is estimated to plummet 18 percent this year.
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The top three wine-producing countries in the world—by far—are Italy, France, and Spain. According to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, all three countries hold sizable leads over the fourth-largest producer, the United States, and together, they make up nearly half of global production. Within Europe, France accounts for more than a quarter of all production, and already this year, French officials have warned that the wine harvest would be one of the lowest on record due to poor weather.

Now, when looking at European production as a whole, the other shoes have dropped. Though not hit as badly, France's wine-producing neighbors Italy and Spain are also set to see a significant decline in production in 2021. And overall, Europe's wine harvest this year will likely be historically low, according to estimates from the EU agricultural organizations Copa and Cogeca.

A man harvests grapes for wine near the Moselle river in France
Credit: Ray Juno / Getty Images

"After a year of challenging climatic conditions in southern Europe, the 2021/22 wine harvest is forecasted to be significantly lower and shorter compared to the previous marketing year," Copa and Cogeca announced in a press release yesterday. "In addition to the spring frosts which decimated approximately 30 percent of the cultivations in France and northern Italy, hail, droughts and diseases have further accentuated the losses."

Despite an estimated drop in production of 18 percent from last year, Italy, France, and Spain are still expected to produce plenty of wine: at least 117 million hectoliters. And if there's any silver lining, it's that the grapes that have survived are believed to be "considerably higher" in quality than past years which "bodes well for quality wines," wrote Copa and Cogeca.

But the organizations did warn that, within these three countries, the losses varied significantly by region—meaning certain types of wine could be harder to come by than others. For instance, in Italy, the groups explained, "The varying climatic conditions ranging from spring frosts to summer hail, storms and drought have resulted in substantial qualitative and quantitative differences even between neighboring wine-growing areas. Many areas in northern and central Italy were hit hard by the spring frosts which destroyed up to 40 percent of the new flower buds, but there are good prospects for white wine."

And yet, faced with this news, Luca Rigotti—chairman of the Copa-Cogeca Working Party on Wine—stated that low production numbers were just one of many threats to consider. "The re-opening of the HoReCa sector and the resumption of exports, including to the U.S. following the suspension of tariffs related to the Boeing-Airbus dispute, brings a moderate optimism," he stated in the same press release. "However, the minor production and the long-lasting negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic show that the sector needs appropriate management tools to address market disturbances."