Big rise in organics is changing world of wine

Discerning consumers looking for a more sustainable approach to wine fuels demand for organic wines

The rise in organic and biodynamic winemaking was a key theme at Vinexpo 2019 with a number of producers switching their focus towards how they make their wine.

All of which was encapsulated at the fair by WOW! – World of Organic Wines – which featured 150 producers from 10 countries, 25% up on when it was first held at the 2017 show.

EVEN IF PRODUCERS ARE NOT FULLY ORGANIC OR BIODYNAMIC THEY ARE INCREASINGLY FOLLOWING SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES (…)

The interest in organic wines at this year’s Vinexpo shows how quickly the global wine industry is changing. Whilst the WOW! stand saw 6,000 visitors across the entire show in 2017, there was that many on one day this year. “There is real demand,” says Gwénaëlle Le Guillou, director of the Syndicat des Vignerons Bio d’Aquitaine.

In the last 10 years there has been a 250% increases in the number of organic vineyards worldwide, with 15% growth in 2018 alone, to reach 1.7m ha. The top three countries for organic production are Spain, Italy and France. Together they account for 73% of the organic vineyards in the world.

In France 10% of all vineyards are now organic, covering close to 6,000 winemakers with a 20% increase in demand for organic wine in the last year. Vinexpo has firmly aligned itself to organic and biodynamic winemaking and as well as hosting the WOW! exhibition it has drawn up its own Confidence Charter that sets out how and why each of the wines in the tasting are organic. A Charter each of the producers taking part have to sign up to and provide details of which organic certification they have passed.

As the number of organic producers increase so does their level of knowledge and expertise about which viticultural techniques work best, and what needs to be done to help more wineries become organic, or move over to biodynamic winemaking. Austria’s Frey Sohler, for example, became organic certified in 2015, but then went to the next level by being awarded High Environmental Value (HVE) organic status in 2017.

Avondale, from South Africa’s Paarl region, was at Vinexpo to show the ageing potential of biodynamic and organic wines with the limited-release of its Avondale Samsara 2009 ‘Decade Edition’.

For Château Dauzac, it is all about taking steps to improve its “virtuous viticulture”, such as using plant paste rather than egg whites in its fining process, thus also making it vegan- friendly. It also takes soil surveys in its vineyards, down to three metres, in order to assess which variety is best suited for which plot.

Even if producers are not fully organic or biodynamic they are increasingly following sustainable practices particularly around how they are managing their vines, controlling irrigation, pruning canopies for better and earlier grape ripeness, using cover crops and investing in biodiversity measures, like introducing bee hives, or livestock, to improve the health of their soils.

Then in the winery it is now much more about sustainable minimum intervention winemaking, using cold fermentations, basket presses, and punchdowns to help make wine as naturally as possible. Then there are the natural producers, who are taking even greater steps to not use any additions or sulphites in their wine, like Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine in Verona and its first natural wine launched at the show.

Organic and sustainable measures are also being seen far more in the packaging being used like at Bordeaux’s Maison Le Star which is using a light-weight bottle, an eco- sustainable capsule made out of sugar cane and labels made out of 100% recyclable material.

How wine is being matured and aged is also helping producers become more sustainable. A number of producers at the show, like Burgundy’s Domaine Michel Magnien, and Bordeaux’s Château Grand Français, are now using traditional terracotta amphora jars that allow for a small amount of oxygen into the wine, but also protects the purity of the fruit and its authenticity.

With an entire industry looking at developing sustainable methods of growing and producing wine, and more discriminating consumers when it comes to environmental principles, organic wines have a brilliant future ahead.