French Wine Production Could Be the Lowest in at Least 40 Years — If Not Ever

April's devastating frost means production could drop as much as 30 percent from last year.

As if we didn't have enough to worry about in 2021 — a pandemic, a climate crisis, inflation — wine lovers were just dealt some new horrible news: This year will likely be one of the worst — if not the worst — year for wine production in French history.

"For now, it looks like the yield will be comparable to that of 1977, a year when the vine harvest was reduced by both destructive frost and summer downpours," France's agriculture ministry announced on Friday according to the AFP. At the very least, the ministry reportedly believed that this year would be worse than the two most recent years of bad harvests — 1991 and 2017 — with total production expected to drop 24 to 30 percent from last year, placing 2021's vintage at "historically low" levels.

The unfortunate news doesn't necessarily come as a surprise: April's frost was said to affect up to 80 percent of vineyards in wine regions across the entire county — with the damage estimated to be in the $2 billion range. At the time, France's Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie described the event as "probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century."

damaged vine buds
A picture taken on April 13, 2021 shows vine buds damaged by the frost the week before in Estagel, near Perpignan, southern France. Raymon Rogi / AFP / Getty Images

Despite the widespread devastation, some grape varieties were hit worse than others. For instance, in Burgundy, winemakers said the damage was worse for Chardonnay, which buds earlier than Pinot Noir, according to Decanter. Elsewhere in the country, Merlot was also apparently hard hit.

Still, the ministry reportedly added a reminder that this data was still preliminary since harvest season is far from over, and also pointed out that the assessment is based on quantity, not quality.

And regardless, all is not lost: Even at the lowest range of 2021's estimated output, France will still be producing the equivalent of more than 4.3 billion bottles' worth of wine. So there's still plenty of wine to go around — though whether prices will be driven up is yet to be seen.

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