World wine production is expected to fall to one of its lowest levels on record after harsh weather battered vineyards in Europe’s major wine-producing regions.

The conditions “severely impacted” production in Italy, Spain and France, resulting in “extremely low” production volumes, an international wine body has said.

In the midst of the shortage, demand is expected to recover to near levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) said in a statement on Thursday.

Based on information collected from 28 countries, which represent 85% of the world production in 2020, the OIV pegged world production for 2021 at between 247.1 and 253.5 million hectoliters (mhl), with a mid-range estimate at 250.3 mhl.

This would mark a third consecutive year of below-average output and approach the 2017 level of 248 mhl, the smallest in six decades, according to the OIV. One hectolitre is the equivalent of 133 standard bottles.

A drop in production in Italy, Spain and France, the world’s largest wine producers, would outweigh what is forecast to be the highest-ever volume in the southern hemisphere, the OIV said.

Vineyards in western Europe were hit by spring frosts, while French producers also endured heavy rain, hail and mildew disease.

Global consumption trends were encouraging, with first-half data suggesting a rebound despite ongoing disruption to tourism and hospitality linked to the coronavirus pandemic, the OIV said.

“We still expect the global consumption to increase compared to 2020,” Pau Roca, the OIV’s director general, told reporters, noting first-half trade data showed volumes above pre-pandemic levels.

If wine growers adapted relatively well to the Covid-19 crisis last year, they were now “confronting a much greater problem than the pandemic: climate change,” Roca said.

He said adverse weather events were occurring more and more frequently.

While “there is no vaccine” against climate change, he said “there are long-term solutions which will require major efforts in terms of sustainable practices for cultivating vines and producing wine”. He said adaptation was an “urgent necessity” for the industry.

A shift to online sales had also helped the wine industry during the pandemic, he added.

However, an expected decline in Chinese demand could limit an annual rise in consumption to about 2% this year compared with a 3% drop in 2020, the OIV said.

In the European Union, production was forecast to fall to 145 mhl, down 13% from last year, it said.

In the southern hemisphere, favourable weather should allow high output in major producing countries, except for New Zealand, the OIV said. Total output for the southern hemisphere was projected at a record 59 mhl, up 19% from last year.

US production was forecast to rise 6% from last year to 24.1 mhl, although summer drought in some regions was expected to keep the volume below the five-year average.

The body did not give a 2021 production forecast for China due to a lack of harvest data, but said it expected a structural decline since 2016 to continue.

With Reuters and Agence France-Presse

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