Despite a mixed summer, the wine harvest has made an early start in France. In the Languedoc, local growers started their wine harvest on 2nd August, one day earlier than their previous best of 3rd Aug in 1999. Whilst the harvest has yet to begin in Bordeaux, growers are forecasting that it will start about a week or so earlier than last year. Harvesting of whites will commence at the end of this month, with reds due to start mid-September. The same situation is likely in Provence and the Rhône, and it is even much the same in more northern parts of the country, such as the Loire and Alsace. Growers attribute the early harvest to above average temperatures in Spring, with many now forecasting that the milder conditions during June and July presage good quality wines. Nevertheless, the wetter and stormier conditions are likely to mean that, overall, volume will be down by around 5% on recent years, with ordinary table wines suffering greater falls. No one is looking for a repeat of the summer and autumn of 2003, where hot dry conditions left vines too dehydrated to produce many wines of real quality, and output was also sharply down. Whilst French growers have large discretion to choose the date when they harvest their wines, there are regulations within each region that constrain how early the harvest can begin. If climatic conditions continue to change, then it may well be this particular rule will need to be rewritten!