The first bunches of grapes for the manufacture of champagne will be snipped in north-eastern France today - one of the earliest wine harvests ever recorded. Despite miserable weather across much of France in June, July and August - which will greatly reduce the amount of wine produced - the 2007 vendanges, or grape-picking, will be two to three weeks ahead of the normal timetable in most of the country.
The mild winter and the hot weather in April and May gave the grapes a flying start. The wet summer, which produced savage attacks of mildew in some vineyards, has not prevented an early harvest.
Even the reduction in yields - likely to be down 5 to 6 per cent on an average year - is good news, for producers. Vineyards growing the cheapest table wines, in huge surplus worldwide, have been worst affected by the mildew and the wet, cold summer....MORE