PARIS (Reuters) - Damage from spring hail and frost in key French winemaking regions will lead to an 8 percent decline in national output this year and a 32 percent drop in Champagne, the agriculture ministry said on Friday.
In a first estimate of the year's harvest, the ministry forecast production of 44 million hectoliters, 4 percent below its five-year average.
Spring frost hit production in Champagne, Burgundy and the Loire Valley, while Charentes and Burgundy-Beaujolais were affected by hailstorms, the ministry said in a statement.
It forecast year-on-year declines of 23 percent in Burgundy-Beaujolais and 32 percent in Val-de-Loire. Bordeaux wine has been largely spared, with output expected to be stable.
The production estimates are provisional and subject to revision in coming months, the ministry said. Harvest usually begins in late August and lasts until October.
(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Laurence Frost)