(AGI) Rome, Oct 7 - Italy has overtaken France to become theworld's leading wine producer, producing an estimated 48.9million hectolitres a year, said Coldiretti, the farmers'association. The study, based on European Commission data,reports a 1 per cent fall in French grape harvests, withproduction estimated at 46.6 million hectolitres. Spain is inthird place with 36.6 million hectolitres, down 5 per cent.Italy benefited from favourable weather, which guaranteedoptimum ripening, to the extent that several regions described2015 as a historic year for quantity and quality. Frenchregions such as Beaujolais (down 25 percent) and Bourgogne(down 11 percent) were badly affected by the excessive heat.Italy produces more than a quarter of European wine, roughly 28per cent. Production this year is expected to rise slightly to163.8 million hectolitres, said Coldiretti. This year's harvestwas the second earliest since World War II; the earliest was in2003, when harvesting began on Aug. 2 because of the drought.Assuming all goes well, the study concludes, more than 45 percent of Made in Italy wine will go into the 332 registereddesignation of origin (DOC) wines and the 73 registered andguaranteed designation of origin (DOGC) wines, and almost 30per cent will be used for the 118 typical geographic indication(IGT) wines recognised in Italy. The remainder will be used fortable wine. (AGI). .