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Wine experts: worst harvest in half a century

BRUSSELS -- The European Union's farmers' union is warning that drought, cold and hail have conspired to produce the worst wine harvest for the region in up to half a century.

Farmers union expert Thierry Coste said Wednesday that France's grape harvest is expected to slump by almost 20 percent compared to last year. Italy's grape crop showed a 7 percent drop _ on top of a decline in 2011.

The Champagne and Burgundy regions were hard hit by weather conditions that particularly affected the chardonnay grape.

Coste said there may be an upside to the bad harvest _ the quality of the wine produced will be good as it is expected to be more concentrated. While some price increases were on the cards, Coste hoped excessive hikes could be avoided.