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French wine production to rise 25% this year

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A bottle of the 2017 Bordeaux Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere is poured at a primeurs fair this year REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

French wine production should be 25 percent higher this year than in 2017, when frosts decimated the grape crop, according to the Agriculture Ministry. The news may not be well-received by the authors of a US study that concludes that any level of alcohol consumption is harmful to health.


French wine production is likely to be 46.1 million hectolitres in 2018, the ministry announced on Friday.

That is a rise of a quarter compared to 2017 when all wine-growing regions were hit by frosts that badly affected yields.

Winemakers' representatives were also optimistic, although slightly more cautious, predicting output at 44,5 million hectolitres at a meeting in Paris on Friday morning.

Although the summer heatwave seems not to have damaged the grape crop, this year has not been without problems.

Rain and storms in the spring brought mildew, a parasite that harms vines, particularly to the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.

That means that production is expected to be below the five-year average in Languedoc-Roussillon, Corsica and the south-east.

Mildew also affected Merlot grapes in Bordeaux but that has not prevented a recovery in the region to an estimated 5.4-5.8 million hectolitres.

The heatwave came to the rescue, stopping the spread of mildew and bringing bumper harvests in Burgundy, Beaujolais, Alsace and Champagne.

There are 142,000 winemakers in France, according to the professional group Vin & Société, which estimates there are about 400,000 other full-time and part-time jobs related to the trade.

Any alcohol consumption harmful to health, study

The announcement would probably receive a cool reception at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in the US city of Seattle, where Max Griswold, the chief author of a report on the health effects of alcohol, works.

Despite recent research showing that light-to-moderate drinking reduces heart disease, the extensive study, published in the authoritative medical journal the Lancet, found that alcohol use is more likely than not to do harm.

Even one glass of alcohol a day increases the risk of developing at least one of two dozen health problems by about half a percent.

That means an extra 100,000 deaths a year out of the world's 7.6 billion population, another of the report's authors, Emmanuela Gakidou, who also works at the institute.

With five units of alcohol per day, the likelihood of serious consequences jumps by 37 percent.

The study on drinking in 195 nations attributes 2.8 million premature deaths worldwide each year to alcohol consumption.

Overall, drinking was the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disease in 2016, accounting for just over two percent of deaths in women and nearly seven percent in men.

The top six killers are high blood pressure, smoking, low-birth weight and premature delivery, high blood sugar (diabetes), obesity and pollution.

French anti-addiction efforts

Alcohol addiction is responsible for about 50,000 deaths a year in France.

But President Emmanuel Macron is unlikely to tighten rules on advertising alcoholic drinks, if an article in Le Monde newspaper is to be believed.

"As long as I'm president, there will be no law to tighten the Evin law," it quotes him as saying at the Paris farming fair in February, in reference to the 1991 law on alcohol and tobacco advertising. "I myself drink wine at midday and in the evening. I'm a big believer in [former president Georges] Pompidou's formula 'Don't piss off the French people'."

The government has yet to present its anti-addiction plan for 2018-22, having postponed it to September.

Earlier in the year it invited Vin & Société and brewers' and distillers' groups to present their own plan on the question, decision attacked by addiction experts as putting a lobby in charge of prevention.