The French vineyards staged a fourth-quarter rally with the help of a sunny, hot September and seem to have produced some very promising wines this year.

Spring and early summer had been cold and bleak and the trade was worried. With inflation and heavy demand already pushing prices up, a short crop of inferior quality might have sent them skyrocketing. Now that probably won't happen, predicted Peter Allan Sichel, one of the most respected and least excitable of Bordeaux merchants.

On a visit here recently, Sichel said he "expects prices will be at much the same level as last year.

"We were worried," he continued. "The vintage was so late. Usually there aren't enough calories from the sun to finish the ripening process. But the fine weather hung on right through October. It's a large crop, not as large as '76, but good sized and there may even be some fine Sauternes."

Sichel reported that the Burgundy harvest was successful, too, though small in quantity. It is difficult to conceive of Burgundy prices going higher, but evidently they will. Sichel thinks there will be plenty of excellent Beaujolais and Rhone wine, but for the second consecutive year the Loire Valley failed to recover from spring weather damage. Champagne recovered somewhat from its weather problems. Grape prices were up, though, and it is doubtful that the wine is good enough to declare a 1978 vintage.