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Winebits 544: Organic wine edition

organic wineThis week’s wine news: An update on organics, organic wine, and natural wine

Not a whole lot: Organics are one of the fastest growing categories in the food business, but not in wine. This piece from Vinepair doesn’t say so explicitly – it’s mostly boilerplate about two-year-old harvest numbers – but that’s what the Wine Curmudgeon is for. In 2016, about two percent of the cabernet sauvignon harvested in California was certified organic. In other words, not much at all. Given the growth in organics in the U.S, it’s always puzzled me why so little organic wine is produced. The best answer: That most consumers assume that all wine is more or less organic, which is hardly true.

How natural is natural? One of the biggest controversies in wine is about natural wine – wine made without pesticides, chemicals or preservatives. Having said that, don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard about it, since natural wine has an even smaller share of the market than organic wine. This piece from England’s Guardian newspaper does a fine job of exploring the controversy: “Advocates of natural wine believe that nearly everything about the £130 billion (about US$174 billion) modern wine industry – from the way it is made, to the way critics police what counts as good or bad – is ethically, ecologically and aesthetically wrong.”

The other organics: Meanwhile, the U.S. organic market grew 6.4 percent in 2017 – a little slower than usual but still huge growth from a big base. The value of all organic products sold in this country is almost $40 billion, about the same amount as all wine sales sin the U.S. How stunning is that number? Especially since organics are just five percent of the U.S. retail market. Says the head of the biggest organic trade group: “Consumers love organic, and now we’re able to choose organic in practically every aisle in the store.” The key word there, of course, is practically.

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One thought on “Winebits 544: Organic wine edition

  • By Paul Beveridge - Reply

    The reason there is so little organic wine out there is because wine made without sulfites sucks and has given the category a bad reputation. Wine is one of the only organic products where use of the well recognized USDA organic seal is expressly limited by regulation. USDA lets organic vineyards spray sulfur all over wine grapes. Why not let us use a little bit in the wine so it stays fresh and tastes better? I bet you can guess the answer: Because there is big money vested in keeping the organic wine market small.

    Keep up the good work and check out our website: http://www.familywineries.org for more info.

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