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France wine production falls to 40-year low

PARIS — France’s wine production slumped 20 percent to its lowest level in at least 40 years after weather damage and disease caused harvests to plunge in the Champagne and Beaujolais regions.

Output fell to an estimated 1.08 billion gallons from 1.3 billion gallons in 2011, the Agriculture Ministry wrote in an online report Friday. Production dropped 40 percent in the Champagne region, it said.

The damage to France’s grapes and vineyards means world wine output will be the smallest in at least 37 years, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine said Oct. 30. Italy will pass France as the biggest producer, the group estimates.

“This is the lowest harvest since at least 40 years,” the ministry wrote. “This year’s peculiarity is the variation in grape weight in the vineyards in most of the regions, resulting in disparate yields from one plot to the next.”

Grape harvesting has ended, and production turned out 2.56 million gallons higher than forecast a month ago, based on the estimate.