Global wine production sinks to lowest level since 1961

Worldwide wine production is set to drop 8.2 percent from last year’s amount, the lowest level for almost 60 years. Harsh weather in Europe was to blame for the dip, but production in the Southern Hemisphere was up.

Extreme weather conditions in the key European wine producing countries of Italy, France and Spain this year has contributed to the lowest levels of wine production since 1961, the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) announced on Tuesday.

In Italy production slumped 23 percent to 39.3 million hectoliters (mhl), while in France the drop was 19 percent to 36.7 mhl. Production in Spain fell 15 percent to 33.5 mhl, according to the Paris-based OIV, an intergovernmental organization that provides scientific and technical advice on vines and wine.

There was better news for wine-producing countries in the Southern Hemisphere, with Argentina recording a 25 percent increase to 11.8 mhl after a poor year in 2016, and Australia producing 13.9 mhl, up 6 percent on 2016.

Europe's famous wine regions

Mosel romanticism

Some 2,000 years ago, ancient Romans began cultivating vines on the steep slopes along the River Mosel - making this Germany's oldest wine region. Over 100 wine-producing villages, like Cochem (pictured here), make this an enticing region to visit. Premium vintages from this region, predominantly Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and Silvaner varieties, score very high prices at auctions.

Europe's famous wine regions

Riesling from the Palatinate region

The 18-meter high Wine Gate marks the beginning of the German Wine Route, an itinerary established 80 years ago that leads through the Palatinate region. Here you'll find the biggest Riesling region in the world. The "King of German wines" enjoys a good reputation the world over. For instance, when the Suez Canal was officially opened in 1869, it was toasted with glasses of Palatinate Riesling.

Europe's famous wine regions

Bordeaux: City, region and wine

The famous wine region bears the same name as the western French city of Bordeaux. The Atlantic climate and soil enriched with calcium due to lime stone provide fantastic conditions to cultivate the grapes of the renowned dry red wine. Here a sculpture of France's emblem, a cockerel, proudly watches over the vineyards of Château La France.

Europe's famous wine regions

Record bids on Burgundy wine

France's Burgundy region is known for some outstanding wines - both red and white. It also hosts an annual charity wine auction every November, when the world of wine congregates in the Hospices de Beaune. Premier and Grand Cru wines from the region have repeatedly set record prices, with a barrel of "Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru" being sold for 220,000 euro ($242,653) in 2014.

Europe's famous wine regions

Tuscany, home to Chianti & co

Italy is the biggest wine producer in the world, and Tuscany is at the heart of its production. The hilly landscape with its mild climate provides ideal conditions for great wines: Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. These are all made with the Sangiovese grape, which can only be found in Italy.

Europe's famous wine regions

Portugal's famous wine region: Douro Valley

Small, sweet grapes grow on the slopes of the Douro Valley and produce the concentrated and long-lasting flavors of Port, a fortified dessert wine. Once made, it's taken in oak barrels to the port city of Porto, where it is stored for at least two years. The Douro river valley became the world's first protected wine region and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.

Europe's famous wine regions

Rioja: Oak barrel wine from Spain

The Bodega Ysios winery is an interesting showcase for Spain's Rioja region. Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, this long cedar building with a wavy roof of gigantic bars of aluminum is inspired by the shape giant wine barrels. Back in the 19th century, wine makers of the region began fermenting grapes in "barricas," oak barrels, which also gave the wine its distinctive flavor.

Europe's famous wine regions

Tokaj wine: Long fermentation for quality

The Hungarian town of Tokaj also gives its name to the noble wine that is produced here from white wine grapes. Regional wine production rules specify that it has to ferment in a barrel for 10 years and then for another five years in a bottle. Typical for the region is the labyrinthine subterranean tunnel system, providing the best environment for Tokaj wines to develop their flavors.

Europe's famous wine regions

Greece, the cradle of European viticulture

It's no wonder that Dionysus, the god of winemaking and wine, was Greek. As far back as the 16th century BC, ancient Greeks were already making wine. It was stored in amphorae which were sealed with Aleppo pine resin, known locally as Retsina. This added a special flavor to the wine. Today, small pieces of pine resin are still used in wine fermentation in order to produce the typical Retsina wine.

California wildfires changing the picture?

The United States, the fourth -largest wine producer in the world, is forecast to have bucked the trend among wine producing countries in the Northern Hemisphere, with only a 1-percent slip in production on 2016, but these forecasts were made before wildfires ravaged California's two top wine-producing areas: the Napa Valley and Sonoma County.

Catastrophe | 11.10.2017

In South Africa, production was steady at 10.8 mhl, but Chile slid alarmingly to 9.5 mhl. China produced 11.4 mhl in 2016 but no data was available for 2017.

There are fears that reduced global production, which is expected to fall to 246.7 mhl by the end of the year, could diminish a surplus over demand seen in recent years. This could in turn affect prices as actual market supply becomes increasingly dependent on stocks from previous years and the availability of quality wines from landmark regions.

mds/hg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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