Worst grape harvest in half century

Winemaker Cherie Spriggs had watched the bad weather over southern England’s vineyards all season long. It just wasn’t good enough for Nyetimber, her award-winning sparkling wine.

“I have never seen a situation like this before,” Spriggs said as the grapes failed to deliver. She was left with only one option and the company decided to forego the 2012 harvest.

Few have gone as far as Nyetimber but drought, frost and hail have combined to ravage Europe’s wine grape harvest, which in key regions this year will be the smallest in half a century, vintners say.

Thierry Coste, an expert with the European Union farmers’ union, said Wednesday that France’s grape harvest is expected to slump by almost 20 percent compared with last year. Italy’s grape crop showed a 7 percent drop — on top of a decline in 2011.

“Two big producing nations, France and Italy, have not known a harvest so weak in 40 to 50 years,” Coste said. “All the major producing nations have been hurt.”


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