A freeze, the worst since 1945, has affected many of the wine-growing regions of France and reduced the potential crop by as much as 50 percent in some regions. Still, French wine officials say that, because crops have been so large in recent years, they do not foresee a sharp rise in wine prices.
"The market for Bordeaux wine should not experience any shortage, and prices should remain stable," reads a statement from the Bordeaux Wine Council. However, the announcement goes on to compare the freeze to that of the disastrous 1945 freeze and says the freeze will cause a "sharp reduction in this year's harvest compared to those of previous years and will lead to numerous difficulties for wine growers."
The freeze in late April was felt most severely in the Loire Valley and in Pomerol, the region of Bordeaux that has larger plantings of Merlot than of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Damage was reported in other regions too: Beaujolais and Cotes du Rhone production was expected to be half of normal, 33 percent of the Champagne crop was destroyed, and extensive damage was reported in Cognac.
Worst hit may have been the Loire region, where one report says 95 percent of the Muscadet and some other appellations were damaged.
Growers say some of the vines might give "second crop" fruit, which could improve the harvest yields. However, one Burgundian producer says weather through mid-May was not as warm as he had hoped: "It's very sad, very sad."
Properties for sale
Heublein, as part of the down-scaling of its Christian Brothers wine brand, has listed for sale two of its large Napa Valley, Calif., properties, including the well-known Greystone winery north of St. Helena.
Greystone, a 117,000-square-foot facility, has been used largely as a tourist center for the last decade. It was last used to make wine in 1984, when bulk-method sparkling wine was produced there. A real estate firm listed the property with an asking price of $10-million.
The other Heublein property for sale is its relatively new wine-making plant in Oakville, Calif., near Heublein's two major wineries, Inglenook and Beaulieu. It is listed for $10-million.
Ron Batori, a spokesman for Heublein, says the company hopes to consolidate Napa Valley wine-making facilities at a single winery, meaning that the two additional properties were not needed.