French organic wine production increases by 22%
Organic wine production levels increased by 22% in 2020 compared to 2019; exceeding 137,000 ha in organic production (either certified organic or in conversion). There were a total of 9,784 organic vineyards: +21% compared to 2019.
At the end of 2020, the total organic surface represented 17% of the surface dedicated to wine production in the country.
France – already the second largest wine producer in the world – has now overtaken Spain to become the largest producer of organic wine, according to data from AgenceBio.
What is an organic wine?
In France, organic wine must meet the requirements set by the organic regulations of the European Union. Organic producers are subject to mandatory annual checks: which assess the entire production system from the vine to the cellar and finally to packaging.
For example, winegrowers must use 100% organic agricultural ingredients (grapes, sugar, alcohol, rectified concentrated must); while certain physical processes (such as dealcoholization or electrodialysis) are prohibited or restricted. The wines must also comply with a restricted list of additives and oenological auxiliaries, favoring organic origins, and must not exceed a certain level of sulphite (lower than that of conventional production).
While conversion is a three-year process, more and more wineries are ready to go organic.
“The figures for 2020 are extremely positive”, note Millesime Bio, a French fair dedicated to organic wine held in Montpellier this month. “It is possible to observe a clear increase in the number of conversions to organic viticulture: in 2020, 3,186 new organic vineyards were created compared to 1,313 in 2019; 891 in 2018; 572 in 2017 and 87 in 2016.
“Conversions to organic vineyards are progressing well with a total increase of 27% in surface area over the first year of conversion, i.e. 26,564 ha.
In addition, the progression towards organic looks should continue. The process of converting to organic takes three years. In 2010, 11,889 ha were in the first year of conversion. By 2020, this had more than doubled to 26,650 ha.
The leading producer of organic wine in France is the south-west Occitanie region: part of which benefits from the Mediterranean climate. It represents around 37% of the total area of French organic vineyards, i.e. 51,101 ha, and produces around 1.4 million hl of wine in 2020.
Five wine regions represent 79% of the volume of organic wine in the country: Languedoc Roussillon (in Occitanie); Rhône, Bordeaux, Provence and Corsica.
Consumer demand exceeds supply
French consumers are particularly interested in organic products: 55% say they often buy organic products (compared to 38% in 2015 and much more than in the United Kingdom where 41% of consumers in 2020 bought organic).
And this trend is reflected in the wine industry. An IPSOS survey showed that 54% of French consumers have consumed organic wine, compared to 36% in 2015. Compared to their neighbours, that’s a lot: 33% of German consumers say they have consumed organic wine.
The French consumer of organic wine is rather young, urban, educated and has high incomes. The Paris conurbation has a particularly marked interest in organic wine: 75% of the inhabitants of the conurbation have tasted organic wine (nearly double the European average).
The organic wine market benefits from a level of demand that exceeds production capacities, and between 2012-2020 the organic wine market in France recorded an average annual growth rate in value of 13%. In value, the market reached 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in 2020.
Organic wine represents approximately 4.7% of the wines consumed in France, by volume, and 6.7% of the volumes exported.
In total, 45% of organic wine sales were made through direct sales; against only 10% in specialized organic wine merchants. Wine merchants made 23% of sales and supermarkets 21%.