Organic wine is gradually leaving its mark in the French wine industry –

While the French consume less wine, they drink more organic wine. However, the expense of becoming “organic” turns out to be a significant risk for wine growers. EURACTIV France reports.

In France, wine consumption has recently slowed down, dropping by 4% each year. This is according to the French Office for Agriculture Franceagrimer, and the French consume less.

On the other hand, the organic wine market is doing well, since the consumption of organic labeled wines is growing steadily. According to a study by the British institute IWSR, sales of organic wines are expected to grow by at least 14% per year until 2022.

This dynamic of consumption seems to be based on the growing mistrust of the French with regard to synthetic pesticides, prohibited by the requirements of organic farming.

In France, more and more winegrowers are deciding to convert to organic farming. In 2018, the organic vineyard covers 94,000 hectares in France, which represents a 12% increase in surface area. The sector’s turnover amounts to 1 billion euros, according to Agence Bio and the national inter-professional association of organic wines, France Vin Bio.

And the trend should continue, because the public debate in France is increasingly centered on the issue of the use of pesticides. For several months, part of the French population has been worried about so-called “pesticide-free” areas, and the government recently launched a consultation on the issue.

“There is societal pressure to reduce the use of pesticides, especially when the municipalities want to impose a perimeter of 150 meters without pesticides”, explains Vincent Mercier, organic winegrower in Côte de Bourg and member of the France Vin Bio office.

Discreet vineyards

Organic vineyards, especially on less prestigious appellations, are making progress, while the more established are living on their laurels.

The wine industry in Auvergne, for example, has made an accelerated transition to organic wine. In the Côtes d’Auvergne, which covers an area of ​​800 hectares, half of the independent winegrowers are in organic farming.

On the other hand, the switch to organic viticulture for the very famous Champagne region remains at a very low rate of 5%.

For 41% of French people, the organic conditions in which the wine was produced are reason enough to buy a bottle. More importantly, the price consumers are willing to pay for a bottle of organic wine is € 8.70, almost € 2 more than for a bottle of wine produced by conventional agricultural means.

“But be careful to distinguish between purchase intentions and actions. These do not always reconcile, given that the increase in the purchasing power of the French does not appear soon, ”warned Vincent Mercier.

However, converting to organic farming is not for everyone. The requirements for qualifying in organic farming do not take into account all the criteria for preserving the environment. Carbon emissions, for example, are not taken into account.

Giving up any synthetic treatment also runs a significant risk for winegrowers.

“Taking the risk in organic farming means completely abandoning conventional treatment, which could lead to the loss of the harvest altogether. It is understandable to keep the possibility of such a treatment, ”admitted Mercier.

And inputs allowed in organic farming, like copper and sulfur, are also subject to environmental criticism.

Other more environmentally friendly approaches can also appeal to wine growers. However, labeling wines as biodynamic or natural comes with even stricter requirements.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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