The growing attractiveness of organic wine


September is Organic Wine Month, a time to celebrate all the best things about organic wine. Earlier this year, National Liquor News that’s exactly what we did, with this report on the organic wine sector.

If there has ever been a movement in the liquor industry to not only survive but thrive in 2020, it is sustainability. The pandemic has prompted consumers to rethink what is most important to them in an unprecedented way, which has seen conscious consumption continue on the upward trend seen in recent years.

When it comes to wine, organic products are the driving force behind the sustainability trend. For example, Wine Intelligence describes organic wine as the first type of sustainable wine that resonates with consumers, as well as the largest type of alternative wine in terms of global opportunity, in its 2021 edition. Sustainable and Organic Wine report.

Organic wine producers and retailers have also seen strong opportunities in the sector. At Angove Family Winemakers, the demand for sales has led the company to expand its organic grape vineyards as more consumers seek organic styles at an increasingly rapid rate.

“It was a slow burn, but over the past five years sales growth has certainly accelerated and we now have over 20 different certified organic wines in our range,” said Matt Redin, Marketing Director at Angove Family Winemakers.

“Consumers have been pushed towards wine and organic products in general, as their interest in the environment, the way food is made and where it comes from, as well as an increase in personal well-being increases and becomes more prevalent. . “

Mike Bennie, wine and beverage writer, presenter and co-director of P&V Wine + Liquor Merchants in Sydney, described this movement and said: “I think Australian consumers are increasingly exploring the concepts of organic products, the concepts of organic products. origin, process and provenance. of the goods they consume, and therefore to find out how sustainability as a concept fits into their own lifestyle choices.

These attentive consumers may partly explain why Liquor Marketing Group (LMG) saw a 523% increase in organic wine sales in the 12 months ending January 2021, compared to the previous year. Organic wine also increased its share of dollar sales, from 0.5% two years ago to 2% of total LMG bottled wine sales. LMG’s national merchandise manager for wine, Matthew McEvoy, called the sector’s results “fantastic” and noted the opportunity the segment offers to retailers.

“We know a lot about who our buyers are, so we’ve worked closely with our key supplier partners to develop an organic wine program tailored to each state’s specific buyer profile. It also offers new growth opportunities for our member stores, ”he said.

For New Zealand winemaker Villa Maria, this growing interest has shown the importance of the company’s 21-year vision, which this year resulted in the release of EarthGarden, the estate’s first organic range.

Villa Maria Marketing and Communications Director Sarah Szegota said: “The demand for sustainable and organic products is increasing around the world, and the immediate interest of our domestic and export markets for the new range. testifies to it. There is a huge buzz and growing enthusiasm around EarthGarden among our export partners, matched
only through the pride of the Villa Maria team.

Ducks at Angove’s Warboys Vineyard

The organic in motion

Producing organic wine, in practice, is more than ticking a few boxes to meet certification requirements. Understanding the amount of work involved is essential in helping retailers tell the story of organic wine in the store and encouraging the attentive consumer to explore the segment.

As Redin explained: “In each area of ​​our operations, Angove Family Winemakers is focused on making real actions and investments to positively benefit the environment while studying future opportunities and strategies to measure the overall impact on the business.

Angove Family Winemakers have been certified organic for 15 years and in 2017 made the additional commitment to convert all family vineyards to certified organic vineyards, converting to date 330 hectares in the Riverland and McLaren Vale. In addition to this, the company employs certain techniques both in viticulture and in wine production which
encourage sustainability.

This includes (but is not limited to); water conservation which resulted in a 25% reduction in water consumption per hectare and capture of rainwater to reduce reliance on declining rivers; improved technology to reduce energy consumption by 25 percent, reduce CO2 emissions by 27 percent and see solar power covers 50 percent of peak power and 100 percent of gate power cellar; and the diversion of waste for different wine-growing activities, which has significantly reduced the contribution to landfill while benefiting biodiversity. In addition, recycled packaging and lightweight bottles use 40% less glass, which can lead to a reduction in CO2 per bottle of more than 15%.

Meanwhile, at Villa Maria there is also a lot going on to maintain organic and sustainable practices, as head winemaker Oliver Powrie has described.

“BioGro certifies our vineyards, wineries and wines as organic and has been a vital part of our 20-year journey to develop our experience and expertise in organic products. Our vineyards and wineries are all Sustainable Winegroving New Zealand certified, we also have ISO 9001 quality management and 14001 environmental management certifications, CarbonReduce certification and are assessed by SEDEX and EcoVadis on our social, ethical and environmental responsibility ”, Powrie said.

“We see sustainability as a universal challenge and we continue to invest significantly in this area. This includes the use of sheep, worms and wild flowers in the vines; night cooling, natural lighting and heat recovery in the cellar; recycling, light bottles and low emission vehicles.

Encouraging biodiversity is one of the fundamental tenets of successful organic wineries, something that animals and insects can help, as Redin explained.

“In our Warboys Vineyard in McLaren Vale, rather than using pesticides to control the endemic snail population, we have a team of Indian Runner ducks that enter the vineyard early in the growing season to keep them under control. “said Redin.

“We recently installed a beehive to help protect populations of beneficial insects in the vineyard. The presence of bees is not essential to the success of the pollination of the vine, but the bee always feeds on its pollen … In addition to helping fruit set, bees are essential to the success of pollination plants that occupy the soil of the vineyard. A wide biodiversity of plant species in the vineyard is essential for the development of soils rich in nutrients and which maintain good levels of soil moisture. These aspects ensure high levels of vine health and contribute to the development of complex berry aromas, which in turn lead to wines of exceptional intensity and depth.

At LMG, the organic range includes the Atmata range from Casella Family Brands. Brad Ipson, National Business Manager – Independent at Casella added to Redin’s point and said that quality was the other element that remains central during all of this hard work that organic growers undertake.

“Atmata’s grapes come from premium organic Australian vineyards. These wines have been developed to provide consumers with a product that meets their evolving needs and to meet consumer trends in ethical commitment, health and wellness, ”said Ipson.

Wildflowers in a Villa Maria vineyard in Hawkes Bay

The best tips for selling organic wine

Redin received the following advice from the Angove family winemakers:

  • “Create an organic section within your store and brand it as such… it has worked successfully for large supermarkets and will work in-store to drive sales and awareness of organic wines.
  • “Taste the wines with your customers – some may be put off by memories of organic wines from decades ago that were really pretty average. Things have changed and the art and science of making certified organic wines has improved.
  • “Make sure the wines are certified organic and that the winery doesn’t just use the word organic as part of their brand name.”

Meanwhile, Bennie’s biggest tip is to give consumers confidence in organic and sustainable wine.

He said: “Raise awareness around [sustainable wines] through the coalface conversation is really paramount to me … it’s amazing how many people are interested in this conversation, and how many people come in to retail to learn about wines that are made more sustainably , or without additives, or which are lower in sulfur or the like.

“It’s about creating distinctive areas in the store where people can find things easily without feeling alienated, and then having good conversations around wines, and not being afraid of certain wines that might have an impact. a little more diverse personality than retail
landscape offerings.

Read the rest of this article, including a discussion of other sustainability initiatives in the wine sector, in the March 2021 issue of National Liquor News.

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