Organic Wines : France ranks 3rd in the worldwide production27-03-2017
Organic farming is a novelty no more, and the world of wine was clearly not going to miss out on this shift in consumption and production, already in evidence for a number of years. We took a closer look at some of the key questions around French organic wines.
What defines an organic wine?
Since 2012, a wine made according to the principals of organic farming must comply with an official set of European guidelines. This document defines all the processes involved in vine growing and wine making. In order to be organically certified AB (Agriculture Biologique – Organic label), pesticides, chemical fertilisers and GMOs are not permitted, while natural and organic fertilisers and cover planting are actively promoted and help protect the soils from erosion. In the winemaking process, every part of the grape cluster has a role to play, and as a consequence, respecting the vine in its entirety, from roots to fruit, is paramount.
Becoming an organic grape grower does not happen overnight; it takes 3 years to be granted certification, during which time the vineyard is considered to be in conversion. Despite these rigorous procedures, French vineyards are converting in increasing numbers. Interestingly, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform in 1992, which provides subsidies for organic conversion, has been, and continues to be, a key incentive for growers considering organic conversion. In addition, the French wine market is currently performing well.
Organic viticulture continues to flourish…
France’s undisputed global reputation for quality wines – it is the world’s leading producer with more than 90,000 vine growing estates – is no less impressive in organics. France is currently the world’s third largest producer of organic wines, hot on the heels of Spain and Italy.
And there’s no reason why France can’t improve on this. With currently 8,7 % of French vineyards producing organic wines, accounting for some 67,931 hectares, the number of organic farms has risen almost five-fold in the last 15 years. Today, organic vine growing is worth 670 million euros, of which exports account for 24% of sales volume – which incidentally accounts for 46 % of French organic wine productions. According to the IRI (panel studies), the organic stamped still wines are observing an increase in 2016, 18,7 millions of litres sold (+13,4%). The designations are holding the reins with almost 60% of the sells (+14,9%), and the PGI (protected geographical indications) represent 4 millions of litres sold (+20,9%).
Interestingly, France took a relatively early leap on to the organic bandwagon, and created AFAB – the French Association for Organic Farming – back in 1962. It was the wine sector in particular that was the quickest to tune in to organic methods, and in the early 80s set out the first regulations to strictly govern growers wishing to set off on an organic path.
Taking the principals of organic one step further, biodynamic viticulture is another, even more rigorous approach. Its objective is to rehabilitate, re-energise and enhance organic life, and create an environment in which the vine can flourish. By respecting a lunar timetable, but also carrying out work in the vineyard with a non-mechanised approach, where we are more likely to see horse-drawn ploughing, the grape grower guarantees that the vine respects the environment, the soils and ultimately his consumers. To identify biodynamic products, the consumer can look out for two quality labels: Demeter (the global certification body for biodynamic farming) and Biodyvin (a union of biodynamic certificated growers).
…as do exports
The quality of organic wines is going from strength to strength and have been topping the rankings in various high-profile competitions. Increasingly in line with the demands of consumers seeking a more environmentally-conscious lifestyle, organic products are proving increasingly popular, both within and beyond French borders. In 2015, exports of French goods saw an increase of 27%, and organic wines mirrored this growth, with exports soaring by 26%.