France toasts 25% wine production jump after terrible 2017

Experts are predicting a "very good" vintage of Champagne this year

French wine production is set to leap 25 percent this year in welcome news for vineyards after a disastrous cold snap in 2017, the government said Friday.

Agreste, the French agriculture ministry's statistics service, forecast that total production for the year would reach 46.1 million hectolitres (1.2 billion gallons), with harvests expected to be strong in the Champagne and Bourgogne areas.

Industry body FranceAgriMer gave a slightly more cautious forecast of 44.5 million hectolitres.

The figures are a return to normal after last year when icy spring weather froze vines from the Bordeaux region in the southwest to Alsace in the east, prompting an 18 percent drop to 37.2 million hectolitres.

This year, Languedoc-Roussillon, Corsica and the southeast are the only wine production regions where output is forecast to come in below the yearly average.

Growers across France have been battling mildew, a form of mould which thrives under conditions of heavy rain and storms seen in May and June.

The fungus "has been particularly aggressive in the basins on the Atlantic side and above all in the Mediterranean where it has hit harvests," Agreste said.

But the countrywide heatwave this summer slowed the progression of the mould and led to particularly strong harvests in Bourgogne and Champagne but also Beaujolais and Alsace.

The world's favourite celebratory fizz is set to see a bumper year with production up 39 percent and the Comite Champagne industry group predicting a "very good" vintage.

The Champagne harvest kicked off on Monday, about two weeks earlier than usual, as the first of the region's army of 120,000 pickers got to work in the region's Cote des Bar area.