Rain, hail, tempests, plague Europe grape harvests but wine will flow

Rain, hail, tempests, plague Europe grape harvests but wine will flow

NEW YORK - Many of Europe's grape growers have been hit by hail, windstorms, heavy rains, cold and clouds resulting in one of the worst harvests in decades.

From France, the world's biggest wine producer, to Austria and Greece and across the Atlantic in the United States, winemakers say this has been an unusual year.

Due to weather problems in much of Europe, consumers can expect to pay more for many European wines, according to economist James Thornton, professor of economics at Eastern Michigan University who specializes in the economics of wine. But warm weather for grapes in much of the United States means prices should be lower for US wines, he said.

The price of European wine should "increase relative to the price of American wine," said Thornton, author of "American Wine Economics." "So American wine should be a relatively better buy."

French harvest: Quelle Horreur

FranceAgriMer, part of the French Ministry of Agriculture, said the 2013 harvest would be one of the worst in 40 years and blamed cool temperatures and heavy rains both the poor quality and lower quantity of grapes.

The ministry expects the 2013 harvest to top out at 43.5 million hectoliters. The 10-year average is 45.5 million.

In Burgundy, some vintners in the prestigious Beaune region said devastating hailstorms in July caused near catastrophic damage to their vines and destroyed their crops. A few weeks later, similar storms pelted Bordeaux with hail the size of pigeon's eggs.

It's not just quantity of the grapes, but also the quality that is lacking, according to FranceAgriMer. Tests showed low sugar content, which means the resulting wines will have less alcohol.

The weather also wreaked havoc on vineyards in Austria and parts of Greece.

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