El Nino suspected as world wine output drops

Wine production is likely to reach 259 million hectolitres, a decrease of 5 percent compared with 2015 (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)

Paris (AFP) - Global wine production in 2016 is expected to be among the lowest in 20 years, an industry body said Thursday, suggesting climatic events such as El Nino could be to blame.

The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) estimated this year's output at 259 million hectolitres (Mhl; there are 100 litres in a hectolitre), a year-on-year drop of five percent.

This worldwide annual total, released at a news conference in Paris, is among the three lowest since 2000.

OIV said weather was partly to blame. "The El Nino climate phenomenon seems to be back in Latin America, where production was affected by fairly exceptional weather, with lots of rain," said IOV's CEO, Jean-Marie Aurand.

The El Nino weather phenomenon, which occurs every four to five years, affects rainfall patterns and causes both drought and flooding.

As it recedes the Pacific cooling trend known as La Nina typically begins, often causing increased rainfall, storms and snow across the globe.

Most of the fall in wine output occurred in the southern hemisphere: Argentina's production fell by 35 percent to 8.8 Mhl, leading its world ranking to drop from fifth to ninth place.

In Chile it fell by 21 percent, to 10.1 Mhl, and in Brazil it halved, to 1.4 Mhl.

A prolonged drought in South Africa pushed production there below 10 Mhl for the first time since 2011, to 9.1 Mhl, a drop of 19 percent.

Aurand noted that grapevines are able to adapt to extreme conditions, pointing out they are found on the volcanic rocks of Lanzarote in Spain as well as cold areas such as northern China.

China climbed the global output ranks to sixth place without actually increasing its production (11.5 Mhl) thanks to the drops in Latin America, said Aurand, adding that China planned to boost output to 16 Mhl by 2020 by developing vineyards near the Gobi desert.

In Europe, Italy confirmed its place as the leading world producer with 48.8 Mhl, having knocked France off the top spot in 2015.

France came in second with 41.9 Mhl, following a sharp fall of 12 percent attributed to frost, floods and drought.

Of the top three producing nations, the OIV expects only Spain to show growth in 2016, with a one-percent year-on-year rise to 37.8 Mhl.

The United States is fourth with 22.5 Mhl, a rise of two percent, and Australia is the world's fifth-largest producer after seeing five percent growth to 12.5 Mhl.

The OIV estimated that between eight and 12 percent of wine was produced organically in 2016 and that the trend was catching on "almost everwhere".

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting