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Bordeaux 2013 Vintage May Fall By 20 Percent

Paris — Bordeaux wine output will probably fall more than the 20 percent forecast last month after rain at the end of September caused grapes to rot, prompting some growers to speed up harvesting, the local wine bureau said.

Picking of merlot variety grapes ended last week and the harvest of red cabernet grapes may be done this week, Valerie Descudet, a spokeswoman for the wine bureau, said by phone. She said while the decline is expected to be bigger than previously forecast, it’s too early to give a precise production outlook.

Grape rot caused by wet weather adds to a cold spring that hurt pollination and damaging summer hail. The 2013 vintage had already been forecast to slump 20 percent from last year’s 5.25 million hectoliters (139 million gallons) for the smallest volume since 1991, when production was 2.58 million hectoliters.

“What’s certain is that it’ll be a small harvest,” Descudet said Wednesday. “All these weather effects result in a drop in production. The grapes affected by rot are screened, they’re sorted out on the table and we only keep the healthy grapes, so that will have an effect on volume as well.”

The Agriculture Ministry earlier this month predicted Bordeaux’s volume of designated-origin wines would slump 18 percent to 4.3 million hectoliters, with hailstorms in August causing losses estimated at about 78 million bottles. France’s total wine production is predicted to rise 6.6 percent.

The Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 index, which tracks leading Bordeaux vintages, rose 3 percent in the past 12 months.

Storms and rain on Sept. 28 upset harvesting plans, with some domains advancing grape picking, Descudet said. The city of Bordeaux got 38 millimeters (1.5 inches) of rain that day, or 40 percent of the month’s precipitation, according to Meteo France. That was followed by 45 millimeters of rain on Oct. 4.

Grape rot accelerated harvesting in Bordeaux’s Margaux area, with some estates picking at the end of September, while harvesting had not been expected before Oct. 10, newspaper Sud Ouest reported Oct. 4. Merlot grapes could wait no longer due to the weather conditions, according to the report.

The domains “juggled with the conditions, because there were moments of rain and some of good weather,” Descudet said. “Looking at the weather in the last days of September, that rushed the harvest somewhat for merlot.”