Tom's blog

France suffers another crop loss

Today I was musing about France's shrinking dominance of the wine market. When I first got involved in writing about wine, France was well seated at the top. No one else made champagne, no one else's cabernet sauvignon could hold a candle to a first-growth bordeaux and Burgundy's pinot noir prices were in high demand despite commanding some of the highest prices in the world. The French were drinking more wine than water. French wines ruled.

Now, thanks to spring frosts in Bordeaux and summer storms in Champagne, French wine production is expected to shrink an average of 19 percent this year. Among the Bordeaux producers most severely impacted were Chateau Margaux and Chateau Petrus. Even harder hit are vineyards in southwestern France where production will decline 39 percent.

France and Italy compete for being the top wine producing country in the world. Together with Spain, the group makes more than half of the world's wines. But France's production has declined every year -- 11 percent since 2007. So, this year's loss will have an impact on its number one position.

Except for well-heeled collectors, I doubt most wine consumers will be impacted by this year's crop loss. That's because the global wine market is so diverse today that a drop in production in France really doesn't rate more than a blip.

Today's consumers have turned to Spain, Italy and emerging markets like New Zealand. Even the United States has a stronger role in the marketplace here as states like New York and Washington are earning a place on shelves.

French wine prices are likely to rise now, but there is so much more to choose from.