Organic and biodynamic drinks - analysis

cow horns in soil with a blue bottle of whisky

Going green hits the mainstream as more consumers look for organic and biodynamic drinks

People want to know more about what they are drinking – and they are increasingly using technology to find out. That’s the general feeling when it comes to trends in organic and biodynamic drinks. Not only that, but the practices go hand in hand with wider sustainability measures.

Virgin Wines reports that between January and October 2021, the company sold 51.1% more biodynamic and organic wine than during the same period in 2019.

“The rise in popularity likely comes down to consumers being more aware of protecting the environment and what they are putting into their bodies,” says wine buyer Sophie Lord. “Many wine drinkers are keen to drink wines made from grapes that are untouched by any sort of chemicals, produced in vineyards prioritising the ecology of their land.

“L’Emigre Blanc 2020 and Trabajemos Organic Tempranillo 2019 are two of our highly-rated customer favourites.” For family-owned Venetian wine producer Masi, the pandemic has escalated what it sees as a rediscovery of “the value of authentic things”. Organic products are among a few elements Masi notes are becoming more important as part of the pandemic, including transparency, sustainability, authenticity and how our actions affect others and the planet.

And so the company has released a new line of organic wines, Fresco di Masi, bottled in 100% sustainable packages. The wines are fermented using natural yeasts present in the grapes and they are unfiltered, unoaked and cold settled before bottling.

Giacomo Boscaini, export manager and Masi family member says: “With Fresco di Masi, we wanted to set a new benchmark for the Veneto wines of tomorrow and create wines made with the simplicity of former times, but to today’s high-quality standards.”

Stefano Girelli, managing director of TWP Wines, says consumers are also so much more informed these days, thanks to technology. “Choice is much wider due to the internet too, and if they can’t see what they want on the shelf, they will go online and buy it that way – it’s so much easier,” he adds.

Thinking ‘organic’ is now in a permanent mindset for consumers, he believes.

“It would be great if retailers would massively adopt QR codes, giving the consumer direct access to product information and practices, and the producer can constantly update the info.”

Girelli highlights Sicilian range Purato, which he says stands out on the shelf as “clearly organic”.

“I think the days of having organic sections in shops are gone now. Organic wines should feature in the main sections of the shelves and I think people will increasingly choose organic over non-organic and are prepared to pay something more for it.”

Organic is now so mainstream that even ’90s pop icon Gary Barlow is in on the action. In October, the Take That star released two organic Spanish wines – a white and a red. “I am a huge supporter of organic produce and farming and it was very important to me that the grapes used in my wines are certified organic, so that they are not only sustainable but also as authentic to the local vineyards as possible,” he is quoted as saying.

Elsewhere, Ehrmanns Wine announced the launch of Beefsteak Club Rare – an organic Malbec from a single vineyard in Mendoza.

More so than ever, the world of biodynamic and organic viticulture plays into wider sustainability initiatives.

Argentina’s Domaine Bousquet has around 300ha of its own certified organic vineyards and has converted more than 1,000ha of growers who supply the company.

“Besides organic and biodynamic is our sustainable farming approach at Domaine Bousquet, which helps us to absorb all the CO2 emissions in the atmosphere to improve our environment,” explains Labid Ameri, co-founder & president of Domaine Bousquet.

“This is an important point because farms that use pesticides work the other way around; pesticides make the land expel CO2 and not absorb it.”

The company also recently announced a move to bottling in the UK -–its Domaine Bousquet Premium Malbec is now bottled at Greencroft Bottling.

As consumers continue to explore ingredients, we can expect more interest in organic and biodynamic products. And as our use of technology continues, we can also expect technology such as QR codes and blockchain to play a role in communicating these credentials, which are part of a much larger sustainability picture.

BEYOND WINE

While the terms organic and biodynamic might be commonplace in the wine world, they don’t feature as much elsewhere in drinks – especially biodynamic. But that’s not to say moves aren’t being made. In October, Ireland’s Waterford Distillery launched Biodynamic: Luna – what it claims is the world’s first biodynamic whisky.

The expression is part of distillery chief executive Mark Reynier’s project to “bring biodynamics out of the wine world and into whisky” and it required three Irish growers to apply biodynamic agricultural practices to growing barley.

“During the 1980s in the vineyards of Burgundy and Alsace, following decades of agro-chemical excess and the race for yield over quality, I witnessed the renaissance of terroir and modern winemaking,” Reynier says. “Out of this, biodynamics blossomed – a new philosophy that at first seemed outlandish, but after tasting the results increasingly proved its worth.”

Elsewhere in whisky, producers including The Oxford Artisan Distillery and The Cotswolds Distillery use organically grown grains, while single malt Scotch Nc’nean is both organic and the UK’s first net zero whisky distillery.

RETAILER VIEW

Jana Post Forest Wines, Walthamstow

Forest Wines is an independent wine shop in London’s E17 postal district, specialising in natural and organic wines, craft beers and selected spirits. Forest Wines runs tasting events and the company also partners with local businesses to produce gift boxes, which contain wine as well as products such as coffee, chocolate and candles.

How do you explain your wine offer to new customers?

We all know what organic food is, the same goes for our drinks. Low-intervention wines benefit from chemical-free production (no pesticides or herbicides in the vineyard, no additives during the making process). Some biodynamic and natural wines can be quite challenging for a beginner, but our range is really big and we are always happy to recommend wines that will provide a good introduction to this style.

Has the perception of organic/biodynamic wine changed much over the past two years?

Absolutely. We are all more aware of where our food and drinks come from, what goes into making them. Some consumers are also concerned about the level of sulphites in drinks.

How do you source your wines?

Our range is curated and changes quite often – we are adding new wines pretty much every week. Seasonality is important; you will find more heavy reds and oaked whites in the winter.

We are always on the lookout for new and emerging trends. Orange wines were big last year, this summer was all about petillant naturel (Pet Nats). Our wines are sourced from small producers, many of whom hand-harvest their grapes or use animals instead of heavy machinery.

What are your bestsellers?

We are lucky to cater to so many different drinkers. Naturally sparkling wines were popular this summer, now we are getting ready for a busy Beaujolais Nouveau season. Easygoing reds are always popular – the ones that you can chill.

What advice would you give to other retailers that want to stock more organic/biodynamic wines?

Think about ways to introduce your customers to the wines. In-store wine tasting events work great for us. It’s the perfect way to taste with our customers, they can ask questions in a relaxed atmosphere. Serving a variety of wines by the glass is also another great way to get people to taste before committing to a whole bottle.

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