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With sustainability sitting front of mind, and as more and more people are making conscious decisions when it comes to their environmental impact, organic wine sales are on the rise. We're here to debunk the many myths that have grown up around organic wine - here's what drinking organic does and doesn't mean.
Sustainability is a huge global movement, more so than ever sitting at the front and centre of our minds, with more and more people making conscious decisions when it comes to their environmental impact and the benefit it can have upon our health to avoid the consumption of chemicals. So, opting for the organic option has become more popular than ever before. And the only way is up for this sector! Up from 5% currently, organic wine is predicted to account for 9% of the UK’s total still wine consumption by 2022. We spend over £200 million per month on organic food and drink in the UK and are one of the top five countries in the world when it comes to our amount of organic wine consumption. Go us!
Thanks to this shift in mentality and lifestyle, organic wine and spirits producers are going from strength to strength. We’re talking small, quality driven producers, doing their most for the environment, whilst packing in loads of flavour!
At Sociovino, sustainability is very important to us, which is why we work with plenty of wineries and distilleries whose philosophies focus on just that. Whether it be organic, biodynamic or natural, many of our producers have worked hard to achieve their environmental certifications, but we also have numerous who are taking huge strides to reduce their environmental impact by conducting sustainable practices and for reasons you shall soon learn, do not go down the route of certification.
So, let us delve into the world of organic wine, get an understanding of what it means to be organic (whether certified or not), what this means for our producers and the wines that they produce, and debunk some of those myths surrounding organic wine along the way. There are plenty of rumours swirling round about organic wine and we are here to set the record straight.
Gian Luca Columbo in his organic vineyards
Organic wine is made from organically grown grapes in compliance with organic farming principles and practices. Rules vary from country to country but in large excludes the use of any artificial chemical fungicides, pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers in the vineyard, and limitations over winemaking additions too, like sulphur. Instead of using these common chemicals, farmers rely on natural fertilisers such as manure and techniques like biological pest control (introducing certain wildlife or plants to attract or deter others).
The idea is to protect the natural balance within the vineyard, which can be hugely beneficial in improving soil quality and encouraging the vines' natural defence mechanisms - at the same time, protecting the future of a vineyard and winery for subsequent generations. These processes generally have more risk associated with them than less sustainably-focused farming methods. They are often more costly and can be more labour intensive. However, the benefits are immense, bringing equilibrium to the ecosystem of a vineyard and providing a basis for philosophies of thoughtful production that underpin so many of our best producers, such as Salcheto or Cataldi Madonna for example. Not to mention, producing wine organically ensures you're able to tap into an increasingly expanding market!
Salcheto's organic vineyards - Salcheto run a fully self-sustainable estate from vine to wine
That being said, we work with numerous wineries who farm according to organic principles and practices but are not certified. Why?
Many are in conversion, it is not a speedy process. It is also not a cheap process so although a winery, Creaciones Exeo for example, may believe in organic farming and conduct organic practices, they decide not to go through the long and costly process of certification.
Some, although organic themselves, purchase grapes from local surrounding farms who are not certified organic, such as Fondo Indizeno. For others, it is simply not possible for them to become certified organic. Monte Tondo, for example, own small parcels of vines across the beautiful Soave hillsides of Veneto. Although they farm using organic practices, they lie in very close proximity to their neighbouring producers' land, which aren't farmed organically. The potential influence on their vines from the chemicals their neighbours use means that Monte Tondo cannot be certified organic. The same goes for a number of our wineries.
Monte Tondo's organic grape harvest
Yes and no. Yes, the average bottle of organic wine is more expensive than the average bottle of conventional wine. But that’s not to say you can’t get your hands on organic wine at affordable prices. In reality it just filters out the mass production wines at the lowest end of the pricing scale, who could not implement these techniques without it affecting their very low margins. But for those not aiming for mass production, it has only become more affordable and more accessible to farm organically due to advanced technology and research. For some excellent value, affordable gems, check out Caiaffa and Tenuta di Tavignano.
Wrong. Pure wine drivel this one. Some of the world’s top wineries are organic! The quality of any wine depends on how the grapes are grown/harvested, how the must is handled, how the wine is vinified and how the finished product is looked after in the cellar. It's that simple.
You may have heard that drinking organic wine leads to lesser hangovers! Wouldn’t that be nice? There is an element of truth here. Organic wine tends to have less sulphites than other wines and some people are more affected by sulphites than others (it can be very triggering for those with Asthma for example), so for those people it can make a huge difference to how they feel the day after drinking wine. But for most of us, this is not an issue. The major factor for your sore head in the morning is alcohol. Rest assured friends, drinking too much wine (organic or not) will always result in the same fate! Trust us – we’ve been there, done that.
This depends on where it comes from. In America, organic wine must be made without the addition of sulphites. In Europe, however, organic wine can contain added sulphites, but minimal amounts are permitted. Sulphur is a preservative commonly used in wine production. But many producers, regardless of organic certification, decide to limit sulphur levels in their wines in order allow the natural aromas and flavours of the wine to shine. Gian Luca Colombo for example uses a quarter of the legal limit permitted in organic wine is his Nu Rosso and Lagar de Costa Albariño Rego do Sol has no added sulphur.
It’s a common misconception that biodynamic means the same thing as organic, it does not. In fact, organic farming is a prerequisite to biodynamic certification. They share many of the same principles, like excluding chemicals, but biodynamic farming also incorporates some spiritual practices too. The vineyard is seen as a cohesive interconnected living system, a self-sustaining system where each element of the vineyard contributes to the next. Techniques include following lunar patterns (the gravitational pull that the moon has on the earth), and using animals and plants to provide a rich, fertile environment for the vines to grow in. If you haven’t tasted biodynamic wines before, I highly suggest you check out Francois Le Saint, who make a stunning biodynamic Loire Valley Sancerre.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Once upon a time, before artificial farming chemicals were invented, all wine was organic. It may seem like a new trend, but wineries have been practicing organic farming from the very beginning!
We're fortunate enough to work with so many producers - of both wine and spirits - who are certified organic, or who follow organic and sustainability-focused farming practices from start to finish of their annual winemaking cycle.
Caiaffa's organic harvest in Puglia
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