According to statistics released by the French national wine association, Onivins, the 2003 French wine harvest will be around 47.1m hectolitres, the smallest for 10 years. The drop in volume was attributed to the hot summer and low rainfall.

"For this vintage unlike any other, the quality of the wines will depend on the technical prowess of the winemakers and the complementary nature of the production process," Onivins said.

The 2003 harvest is the lowest since 1991 when the vintage came in at 42.7m hectolitres. Of the 47.1m hectolitres, some 21m hectolitres will be AOC wines, 17.2m hectolitres will be table wine and 8.8m hectolitres will be used for distillation to make Cognac and Armagnac.

Last year's harvest totalled 52m hectolitres while the harvest, while the harvest in 2001 reached 55.3m hectolitres.