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Global wine harvest predictions released by Ciatti

Published:  16 September, 2014

The overall European wine harvest for 2014 looks like being down on last year, according to the latest report from Ciatti, the global grape broking business, but France is set to return to its position as the biggest wine supplier in the world.

It believes a drop in the harvests in both Spain and Italy, following particularly strong performances in 2013, will hit overall figures as estimates suggest a lower than average yield. Ciatti also warns of some "some serious quality concerns".

It is predicting Spain will have an average crop in 2014, which will have a knock on effect following its "huge" 52 million hectolitre crop last year. This year is likely to be nearer 43 million to 45 million hectolitres. "Expectations," said Ciatti, "are for excellent fruit quality, good alcohol degree and colour."

The Italy harvest is also expected to be average at around 40 million hectolitres. But that is 30% lower than 2013, which was one of the biggest crops seen over the last 10 years.

But France is expected to have a good year compared to its struggling performance in 2013, returning to more average levels this year. Ciatti quotes estimates from the French Ministry of Agriculture that the 2014 harvest should reach about 47 million hectolitres, higher than the small 2012 and 2013 harvests. This will be enough for France, said Ciatti, to regain the "biggest wine producer in the world" tag ahead of Spain and Italy.

Most producing regions should be back to an average crop size, said Ciatti.

But it warns buyers to act quickly for although the French harvest should "maintain stable market pricing" it is not all straightforward.

"The concern for buyers," said Ciatti, "is the crop size in Languedoc, which supplies most

French varietal wines. The Languedoc crop is only estimated to be 12.4 million hectoliters, down 10% from last year. The market is already under pressure for Chardonnay and Merlot, as yields are down by 30?40% compared to a normal year. Although official pricing hasn't been revealed yet, it is believed that a huge price increase is to be expected, with less volume available for every buyer. Consequently, the buying campaign should start quickly at a rapid pace. Quick decision?making will be the key to secure supply this year."

Encouragingly the drought in California is not expected to hit its harvest with estimates suggesting it will be higher than last year and similar to 2012 levels.  

In South America Ciatti points to the ongoing economic conditions in Argentina and the potential impact it could have on the global demand for its 2014 harvest. Ciatti said: "Opportunities for varietals like Malbec have increased, but the outside economic influence has many concerned about the future."

Ciatti said the situation in Argentina was resulting in "thousands of workers losing their jobs" as more producers are forced to "abandon" vineyards and "have no money for vineyard labour". It added: "Wineries are struggling as they try to sell their bulk wines on a very quiet market, and bottled wine sales continue to drop, both domestically and internationally."

But Argentina, said Ciatti, is now starting to perform better in the bulk wine market. "We now see higher quality wines becoming readily available. Specifically, very good Malbec offers on both quality and price. Previously, many of these wines were sold on the bottled market," it explained.

It said the situation in Chile was too early to call but that there were some estimates predicting a big harvest.

Ciatti said bottled wine exports from Chile have shown more growth that expected, up 6.6%, which is counterbalanced by a drop in bulk wine exports, down 28.67% to 195 million litres, compared to 273 million litres for the same period last year. Total Chilean wine exports are down 11.95% compared to last year, at 465 million litres, against the 2013 figure of 528 million litres.

The Ciatti report is better news for New Zealand producers who can expect to have enough supply to cope with the increasing demand for its wines around the world.