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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column ABC Wine 
  Editorial Issue 40, April 2006   
Organic WineOrganic Wine MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
Issue 39, March 2006 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 41, May 2006

Organic Wine


 Once again, this month the subject of this editorial is based on our polls, which - although they started just few months ago - are having a considerable success. Like we said the last month, our reader's opinion gives us the chance to think about tastes and trends of wine lovers. We are pretty surprised on how DiWineTaste's readers are expressing their votes about organic wines and how much it is important in choosing a wine. Most of voters have said to be “indifferent” and “not very interested” in organic wine. However, we ask ourselves whether the role of communication about this kind of product is responsible for this result, both in general terms as well as considering this wine category. Communication about organic wine was not very efficient and clearly explaining what an organic food is, was not efficient as well. This is particularly true for organic wine. Food scandals, such as, “crazy cow”, have turned the attention of consumers towards organic products. If at the top ranking of the most bought organic products there is the category of “fresh” products, such as vegetables, fruit and dairies, wine ranking is in the last positions.


 

 First of all, what is an organic product? The organic production method respects environment and excludes the use of chemical substances of synthesis (phytopharmacs and chemical fertilizers). All the production phases are controlled and certified by specific organisms with European accreditation. As of wine, the right way to refer to this product is “wine from organic agriculture”. In Italy, organic viticulture is done in 50,000 hectares (about 124,000 acres) and represents 5% of non-organic products. An organic wine is different from a non-organic one for many reasons: the form of sulphur dioxide permitted (for example gaseous sulphur dioxide in liquid solution or salts of metabisulfite) and the total quantity - between 10 and 25 ppm for free sulphur dioxide - acids permitted (such as citric, tartaric and ascorbic). The level of sulphur dioxide permitted in organic wines can be different according to the organism of certification, chosen by the producer, and which controls all the parameters of the disciplinary are respected. Besides the lack of communication for organic wine, it is necessary to consider idea consumers have about organic wine. Unfortunately, many years ago, the quality of most of organic wines was not so high and our feeling is that, still today, wine produced with organic methods is considered by consumers as a bad quality wine.

 This is not true anymore most of the cases. We can find good organic wines, both from a qualitative and an organoleptic point of view. Many people believe the producers of this kind of wines do not follow all the principles of organic agriculture. However, many organic wines producers, in commercializing their products, do not stress the concept their wines are from organic agriculture, because this element could discourage buyers of distribution chains, wine shoppers as well as consumers to buy the product. The main distribution channel used by organic wine-companies is mainly export, thanks to which 65% of the production is commercialized, whereas the remaining part is distributed in Italy by restaurants. Export is especially directed to the countries of European Union (in particular Germany, where there are many consumers of organic products), Switzerland and, in recent times, the North-American market.

 If the problem of a non efficient communication about organic products - wine included - keep consumers away from them, another factor to be considered is price. In general terms, organic products are sold at prices higher than 20-30% of non-organic products. If we consider this according to current economical-financial moment, even the amount of money spent to buy wine has been cut down. However, the higher incidence of production costs are paid by consumers. However, most of times, many organic wines have a lower cost than many non-organic wines. At the present time, organic wine is a product destined to a limited number of people. Consumers of this kind of wines are generally those who go shopping in supermarket chains specialized in the selling of organic or biodynamic products. Biodynamic agriculture is different from organic agriculture and it is inspired to Rudolf Steiner's theories about the rhythm and cycles of the soil. Even in this case there are specific organisms certifying the biodynamic products, different from those certifying organic products. There also are biodynamic wines, that is made with grapes cultivated respecting Steiner's principles.

 By observing in detail what happened in organic wines marketing, we can say that, in spite of some important examples of specific commercial structures (especially in Germany and Switzerland) and which exclusively promoted and sold organic wines, today quality organic wine is more and more easily found in the traditional markets, being successful as well. The production of grapes with organic agriculture methods is rapidly evolving even in new emerging countries (Eastern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina). On the Italian market and in the rest of the world, the wines from these countries have been introduced already, including organic ones, at competitive prices. In the worldwide economical-financial scenery, companies which have chosen organic production are experiencing many difficulties in the selling of their wines. In Europe, Germany - which was the favorite market for the selling of organic wines - thanks to the common culture of organic and biodynamic products, imports now a lesser quantity of organic wines from Italy. Organic wine companies are therefore experiencing a lot of difficulties, because they did not consider the economical crisis which Germany is passing through. We wish these producers, after many efforts, will continue to work on quality, on communication about the product and that they will not convert their vineyards to non-organic production.

 Whether organic viticulture is still a field in expansion or it is having a hard time, this actually is a frequent and non very useful subject. What we can say is that some companies have now abandoned the control system, as they were mainly interested in the funds provided by the European Union and not to the methods of organic production. In some regions, in particular the ones with a lesser viticulture vocation, many companies which did not own a cellar, which gave grapes to cooperative wineries or sold them on their own, in the last eight years entered the control system because of the contributions of Rule CE 2078 for the development of rural business, without increasing the value of their productions, which were vinified together with non-organic ones. The end of this funds has led these companies change their mind about their commitment, because they had no more benefits. What happened in the marketing of organic wine should be something to be remembered, in the hope this can be be a lesson learnt by anyone, both producers and consumers.

 



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column ABC Wine 
  Editorial Issue 40, April 2006   
Organic WineOrganic Wine MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
Issue 39, March 2006 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 41, May 2006

MailBox


 In this column are published our reader's mail. If you have any comment or any question or just want to express your opinion about wine, send your letters to our editorial or fill in the form available at our site.

 

I frequently hear about the negative effects of sulfur dioxide on human body. If this substance is noxious, why is it being used in the production of wine?
Giorgio Lanari -- Spilamberto, Modena (Italiy)
The use of sulfur dioxide in wine making - a non flammable gas soluble in water - is justified because of its stabilizing and preservative effects. Although the tolerance for sulfur dioxide changes from subject to subject, its use is however regulated by specific laws which set the maximum permitted quantities. The use of sulfur dioxide in wine making and in viticulture is called sulfiting. Sulfur dioxide can be used in many phased of wine production. Before harvesting, sulfiting is useful in preventing the development of moulds and bacteria. Sulfur dioxide is added to must in order to stabilize it and it is added to wine in order to prevent oxidation and other chemical faults.



Why does phylloxera destroy European vines whereas the American varieties are immune to this parasite?
Jacques Barthel -- Mérignac, Bordeaux (France)
Phylloxera is a parasite attacking vine's roots, sucking nutrients and therefore causing a progressive weakening of the plant with the result of a reduction in fruit yields. The effects of phylloxera do not alter the taste of wine, although, as time passes by, it is necessary to replant the vineyard. The origin is the eastern area of United States of America, where vine varieties resistant to this parasite grow. It is believed that, in the course of time, these vines have developed a thicker and stronger rootstock which makes phylloxera attacks useless. The thinner rootstock of Vitis Vinifera - the European species - allows phylloxera to be successful in its attacks therefore sucking precious nutrients. For this reason, young vine plants of Vitis Vinifera are grafted on rootstocks of American varieties resistant to phylloxera, therefore avoiding its devastating effects.



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column ABC Wine 
  Editorial Issue 40, April 2006   
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