France's 2008 wine harvest is likely to total 45.6m hectolitres, according to the latest estimates published by the Ministry of Agriculture.

This would represent a decline of 2% on the relatively small harvest in 2007, and a drop of 11% on the average annual volume of the past five years. 

AOC volumes are expected to fall 2% on 2007 and vins de pays by 12%.

The Ministry attributes the diminutive crop to mediocre growing conditions in a number of regions.

Mild weather, in some cases, did not allow the vines sufficient winter rest, while frosts in early April caused significant damage in the Loire Valley. April and May were damp months with several regions affected by mildew, while hailstorms in July hit some vineyards in south-west France. 

As for volume by region, Bordeaux is estimated to fall 4%, while harvests will show a decline in other major growing regions such as the Loire Valley (-17%),  Languedoc Roussillon (-6%), Burgundy-Beaujolais (-4%), and the South-East (-5%).  

Champagne (+2%) and Alsace (4%) are set to be the only two regions not to record a decline in volumes, the Ministry adds.