The harvest has begun in the vast majority of French vineyards. Thanks to a hot and dry summer 2009 is expected to be a plentiful vintage of high quality. Expectations are that French vintners will harvest more grapes than in 2008, but less grapes than predicted by the five or ten years averages. In Bordeaux, hopes are high for a repeat of 2005, at least quality-wise, as we reported earlier. Yields could be lower due to loss of grapes caused by severe hail storms in Spring. In Champagne, potential yields are about the same as in 2008, but the governing body CIVC instigated a 30% decrease in harvest yields to protect grape and Champagne prices. Nevertheless, the average price for Champagne grapes is expected to decline a further 5% this year (compared to 2007). Champagne prices in some markets are also continuing to decline. In some French supermarkets you can now buy a bottle of champagne for 10 euros, a price tag that frightens producers. In the Rhône Valley the harvest started about a week earlier than normal. August was very hot, but quality will be better than in the equally hot 2003 because of cooler June and July weather. Quality will also be a lot better than in the disastrous previous vintage. “We are moving towards a very concentrated vintage, warm, very typical of our region,” predicted Olivier Jacquet of the Chambre d’Agriculture du Vaucluse last week (as quoted by WineAlley News).