Wine levels worldwide shrinking to 37-year low

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Uncooperative weather has damaged grapes worldwide, causing global wine production to shrivel 6.1 percent to its lowest point since 1975, according to a Paris trade group.

Between dwindling vineyard space and tough climate conditions that pummeled mega-producers France and Italy, wine output worldwide for this year is forecast to be 243.5 million to 252.9 million hectoliters -- or 6.4 billion to 6.7 billion gallons -- according to the International Organization for Vine and Wine.

That's the smallest amount in 37 years, Director General Federico Castellucci said at a Paris news conference Tuesday, according to Bloomberg.

In 2011, the industry produced 7 billion gallons of vino, according to the group, which is known as OIV. Growth rates are positive in the U.S. and the Southern Hemisphere in countries such as South Africa. Chile's production levels are projected to hit a record level of 280 million gallons.

But among the major producers in the European Union, only Portugal and Greece are expected to yield more wine than they did last year.

Production levels have been on a downward trend since 2004, when nearly 7.9 billion gallons of wine were made. Despite some promising signs in 2010, when the decline in global consumption seemed to end and trading markets appeared to recuperate, the trade group said this year's weak production levels "cast doubt on the strength of the recovery."

Wine drinkers worldwide are expected to quaff 6.2 billion to 6.6 billion gallons of the stuff this year. An additional 792.5 million gallons of wine go into spirits, vermouth and vinegar, according to the trade group.

A wine shortage equal to 1.3 billion bottles could hit the industry next year, according to a news conference this month from Bertrand Girard, chief executive of French wine cooperative Groupe Val d'Orbieu.

An expected shortage of California grapes "that will last for some time domestically" could mean higher prices for wine, according to a report this spring from Silicon Valley Bank. Marketers who sold wine at deep discounts during the recession will face increasing difficulty, the report said.

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