PARIS (Reuters) - Worldwide wine production is expected to fall this year to its lowest since 2012, chiefly due to adverse weather that sharply cut output in France and South America, wine body OIV estimated on Thursday.
Global wine output is set to decrease by 5 percent compared with last year to 259.5 million hectoliters (mhl), one of the three smallest volumes since 2000, the Paris-based International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) said in preliminary estimates for this year.
An expected 12 percent drop in French production, to 41.9 mhl, and steep declines in Chile (-21 percent to 10.1 mhl), Argentina (-35 pct to 8.8 mhl) and Brazil (-50 pct to 1.4 mhl) accounted for most of the projected global fall, the OIV said.
South Africa was also expected to see a sharp decline in output, losing 19 percent to 9.1 mhl.
A hectoliter represents 100 liters, or the equivalent of just over 133 standard 75 cl wine bottles.
A plunge in French production has been widely anticipated after vineyards endured frost and hailstorms in spring and then drought during summer.
The smaller French output should allow Italy to maintain its position as the world's largest wine producer with an expected 48.8 mhl, although this would be slightly below an estimated 50.0 mhl last year, the OIV said.
Production in Spain was set to edge up 1 percent to 37.8 mhl, keeping it as the third-largest wine producer.
The United States would retain its fourth spot among wine producing countries, with output projected up 2 percent at 22.5 mhl, while growth was also expected in Australia (+5 pct to 12.5 mhl) and New Zealand (+34 pct to 3.1 mhl).
The OIV's initial global estimates lacked data from some countries, notably China for which it provisionally assumed stable production compared with last year at 11.5 mhl.
The headline worldwide production estimate of 259.5 mhl represented the midpoint of a working range of around 255 to 264 mhl, it said.
(Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Pascale Denis; Editing by Andrew Callus)