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France's champagne harvest hit by weather

Grape harvest in the Champagne region Reuters/BenoƮt Tessier

Bad weather caused a severe decrease in this year's grape harvest in the Champagne region, but growers predicted on Friday that quality would trump quantity in this year's bubbly.

The area in northern France suffered rain and hail that damaged the grapes in mid-August just before the harvest, the industry's Champagne Committee said.

The pickers have had to be highly selective because the late rain caused a fungus known as botrytis bunch rot to affect the mature grapes, it said.

Some Champagne vineyards began harvesting their grapes on 26 August, among the earliest harvests since 1950.

A spring freeze had already wiped out 23 percent of buds in the region, the committee said.

But warm and sunny weather between May and July was extremely beneficial to the vines, giving them a "remarkable state of health" before the damage wrought by the storms and hail, it said.

The resulting grapes are of high quality with a "very promising" balance and good acidity.