2021 French Wine Harvest Nears Record Lows

Brooklyn Natural Wine

Wine production in 2021 will stand at nearly 33 million hectoliters, a level lower than 29% to that of 2020 and 25% to that of the average harvest of the last five years.


A recent study performed by the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food has found the 2021 wine-growing season will produce record lows when it comes to crop yield.

As of September 1st, 2021, wine production is estimated to be about 33 million hectoliters. This year is projected to be 29% of the average yield for 2020 and 25% below the last 5 years’ numbers. The harvest will also be lower than that of 2017 and 1991 where the country saw record lows in grape production.

A rare late spring frost cut off a large part of this year’s early growing season followed by a widespread disease that impacted multiple vineyards during the summer months. The perfect storm of frost and disease will yield a record low production for the worlds most famous wine country.

The yield of this year’s grape harvest is expected to be low due to the destructive frost in early spring and heavier than normal precipitation in the summer months. The yields will likely be similar or lower than those recorded in 1977 when a severe freeze occurred during the earlier stages of growth dramatically impacting the growing season resulting in one of the worst wine harvests in history. This year's frost has affected most wine-growing regions with varying intensity. The late frost was then followed by a heavier than normal rainy season where disease took over.

The buds of the earliest grape varieties, Chardonnay or Merlots, were most affected. This is in contrast to late varietals such as Ugni Blanc that showed less damage overall. Some regions suffered more than others including Burgundy, the Rhône Valley, and Jura.

During the summer, the mix of the strong vegetation growth and wet weather favoured the emergence of diseases (mildew, powdery mildew and black rot) which resulted in additional losses in many wine-growing areas. At the end of August, Botrytis had spread through the region of Alsace causing widespread loss not seen in recent history.


In Champagne, with the humid summer weather and downy mildew that plagued the region as well as the frost damage during early springtime, grape production is at its lowest level in 40 years. The use of wine reserves from previous vintages should be considered as a result.


In Burgundy, frost, hail and disease have cut off a good part of the harvest, most notably in Yonne where 2/3 of the production was lost.


The Beaujolais region was largely spared the effects of frost given its late growing grape varieties. Losses were mostly due to diseases, with a half harvest expected compared to average throughout the entire basin.

Savoie & Jura

In Savoie, the presence of mildew and black rot led to production losses due to a wet summer. In Jura, diseases such as grey mold exploded after spring frost and hail allowing for only 1/5 of the average to be harvested.

Loire Valley

As the Loire Valley’s frosty spring affected almost everyone in the region, those living closer to its centre felt it more harshly. The 2020 harvest was one for the record books as early harvest was the theme. Even with such turmoil, the 2021 harvest is expected to run as scheduled; however, due to winter diseases such as millerandage(a viticultural hazard in which grape bunches contain berries that differ greatly in size and, most importantly, maturity), and coulure (a failure of grapes at flowering caused by extreme weather), production decreased by a third compared with average years.


In the Bordeaux region, there was extensive damage from frost which caused issues during production impacting the white wines of the region and most notably the Sauvignon grape. In the summer months, a widespread breakout of coulure and millerandage ravaged the region causing losses, especially for Merlot. The harvest will run as scheduled in 2021 after an early 2020 harvest, with the production yield to be a quarter lower than 2020.

With such widespread loss, the 2021 harvest is shaping up to be one of the most unique growing seasons in recent history. Only time will tell how the wines react to lower yields.

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Brooklyn Natural Wine is a group of wine enthusiasts with over 10 years in the industry. Our passion started in wine with studying all parts of “Old World” wines and quickly devolved into a love for the natural wine scene.

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