Ten years ago, it was a little voice in the wilderness. Today it’s a roar. Organic and biodynamically produced chardonnays and cabernets are the fastest growing wine market across the world, fuelled by claims that they are better for your health and better for the planet.
In a report released late last year, wine and spirits consultancy IWSR forecast global sales of organic wine will top the one billion bottle mark by 2022, up from 676 million last year and nearly three times the 349 million bottles sold in 2012. In France, the surge in organic wine sales is strong, with the market share predicted to reach 7.7 percent by 2022. (Chateau Latour, one of the most prestigious châteaux in the Bordeaux region, obtained its certification as organic wine in October last year.) The organic wine market in Australia is currently valued at $31million.
Before we get too carried away, the overall figures are still pretty marginal; organic and biodynamic wines account for just 2.5 per cent of wines globally, although this is set to rise to close to four per cent over the next four years.
The report also found that punters pay on average 38 per cent more for a bottle of organic wine… and are happy to do so. So what are you getting for that extra few dollars? Here’s a rundown of what it all means.
To be organic, a wine must come from a winery where no synthetic chemicals been used. That includes herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers – and the vineyard needs to be as self contained as possible. The bad news? Despite the rumours, there’s no scientific evidence to back the suggestion that organic wines won’t give you a hangover. If you’re prone to headaches when drinking small amounts of wine, cutting out the chemical additions may well be beneficial. But if you don’t want a hangover, don’t drink to excess. Simple!
Sometimes referred to as ‘super organic’, biodynamic viticulture takes things a step further with an ecological, ethical and, yes, spiritual approach. Biodynamic agriculture focuses on having healthy, nutrient-rich soils and a well-balanced environment to allow the vine to harness everything it needs to grow. Winegrowers use herb and mineral preparations to enhance the nutrition of vines. Some also use astrological calendars and lunar cycles to determine the timing of planting and harvest.
Some winemakers market their wines as vegetarian- and vegan-friendly and among those who don’t, many are ‘accidentally’ vegan anyway. Traditional winemaking uses products including casein (milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (gelatine made from fish bladders) to ‘fine’ wines and make them clear and bright. Today many winemakers use clay-based fining agents such as bentonite or activated charcoal, or even leave the wines to self-clarify. These are often labelled as ‘unfiltered’.
Preservative-free wine does not contain any sulphur dioxide – the preservative used to protect wine from spoilage by bacteria and oxidation. In Australia, most organic and biodynamic wine still contains minimal sulphur dioxide. Any wine that contains more than 10 parts per million must be labelled ‘contains sulphites’ so if it doesn’t say this on the label, that’s your wine. Exposure to these levels of sulphur dioxide is rarely a problem, unless you have a specific sulfite allergy.
Here are some vegan-friendly wines we love!
Craftsman Organic Chardonnay: Lifted citrus and stone fruit characters, complexed with mild toasty oak. The palate has freshness and vibrancy, with balanced oak and good fruit intensity. (Available exclusively at BWS.)
Craftsman Organic Shiraz: Dark cherry fruit, with subtle complexing oak and spice. The palate shows good fruit weight, with the gentle use of oak, giving structure to the long finish. (Available exclusively at BWS.)
Yalumba Y Series Cabernet Sauvignon: A generous wine that has all the hallmarks of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is medium bodied and has a core of ripe sweet fruit, a juicy mouthfeel and dusty tannins. (Available at Vintage Cellars.)
One Man’s Journey Riesling: This Eden Valley riesling has lime, jasmine and lemon aromas. Flavours of zesty lime and juicy green apple fill the mouth, finishing clean, fresh and dry. (Available at Vintage Cellars.)