German consumers are considered particularly ecologically aware. In Germany “eco wine” has long since departed from its initial niche existence. Renowned producers like Bürklin-Wolf (Pfalz) and Wittmann in Rheinhessen, as well as an increasing number of cooperatives show that ecologically or bio-dynamically produced wines can boast outstanding quality. Organic cultivation is growing constantly; at present some 5,000 hectares are organically certified in Germany. “Organic cultivation now represents an extra benefit that consumers are also prepared to pay for. They associate the term organic with higher quality and wish to contribute here to eco-friendly food production,” explains Ernst Büscher from the German Wine Institute in Mainz. With organic wine boasting a 5% share of total area under cultivation German wine-growers rank highly worldwide alongside their Greek and Italian counterparts. The Austrians boast the highest proportion of organic production (almost 8%).
Strong Exports for Spanish Organic Wines
The largest producer of organic wines in area terms is Spain whose area under organic cultivation has tripled in just two years (now some 54,000 ha). This strong growth is especially due to large cooperatives although some top producers of international repute are also increasingly switching their areas under vine to organic production (such as Torres). The top region here is Castilla-La Mancha where in just one year the area cultivated organically more than doubled (28,739 ha). Spanish organic wines are primarily exported. Spain’s federation of organic producing companies Federación Española de Empresas con Productos Ecológicos (FEPECO) also includes a series of wine and sherry producers.
France: Upward Trend
France also posts a growing proportion of ecological cultivation and is likely to exceed the 6% mark in 2012. At 9.1% the Alsace boasts the largest share of organic wines although Languedoc-Roussillon is the region with the largest area under organic cultivation (12,661 ha including areas converting to organic methods), followed by Provence (8,961 ha) and Aquitaine (5,464 ha). At 64% organic cultivation saw the most dynamic growth in the Midi-Pyrénées region (south west). The association of ecological wine estates in Languedoc-Roussillon anticipates sales of over 172 million bottles (2009: 77 million) for France’s organic wine-growers. The national association for ecological wine cultivation – Fédération Nationale Interprofessionnelle des Vins de l'Agriculture Biologique (FNIVAB) – counts some 2,800 organic wine estates in France, accounting already in 2008 for 10% of wine turnover in France – and this is a strong upward trend. In France, too, organic products are in greater demand.
In Italy in 2009 some 42,700 ha were cultivated ecologically – which represents 6% growth over 2008. Most areas under organic cultivation are in the south of the country (Sicily: 10,337 ha, Apulia: 7,477 ha) although many Tuscan producers are now also certified. Tuscany ranks third here (5,335 ha).
Optimum Overview at ProWein 2012
ProWein 2012 reflects the increased significance of organically cultivated wines: the newly added Hall 7.1 – which also houses the central Tasting Zone – provides a concentrated platform showcasing sectoral associations and exhibitors focusing on organic wines. “Ecologically produced wines are playing an increasingly important role on the international wine scene. ProWein visitors can gather comprehensive information on the innovations in this dynamic segment at a glance at the new location,” explains Ralph Dejas, Managing Director of Ecovin, Germany’s largest association in terms of member numbers. In addition to Ecovin the new location in Hall 7.1 is also host in 2012 to the other aforementioned associations FEPECO and FNIVAB as well as Demeter, Syndicat des Vignerons Bio d’Aquitaine (France), Bioland Landesverband Rheinland Pfalz, Naturian, Peter Riegel and VIVOLOVIN.
The Other Word on Everyone’s Lips: Sustainability
Sustainability involves wine’s entire production cycle, including its transportation to the consumer and packaging. On wine estates this also includes waste water and energy management as well as waste recycling and indeed also social responsibility. This means a wine cultivation operation with its staff sees itself as part of the social environment at the location. However, cultivation does not necessarily have to meet criteria laid down by organic associations.
France’s major wine producer associations have long since included sustainable cultivation objectives in their catalogue of measures. Already four years ago in Bordeaux a CO2 footprint was laid down to implement an as far as possible climate-neutral production chain. Here all stages of the production process are converted into CO2 units by means of relevant factors and thereby made quantifiable and comparable. For instance, it was recognised that the two main factors impacting CO2 emissions lie in bottle production and transportation to the customers. Many wine-growers and trading houses have initiated action plans to achieve the goal of sustainable production.
Winemakers from the association “Vignerons en Développement Durable” have a similar approach joining up with renowned cooperatives like Mont Tauch and Vignerons du Mont Ventoux and receiving the 2011 Sustainability Prize from the Ministry of Agriculture. What distinguishes France here is that even large producers have seen the signs of the time and are taking part in sustainability studies. “Our quality policy over the past ten years already included elements of sustainability even before this term became a buzzword,” says Alain Castel from Groupe Castel.
Sustainability plays an important role in Californian wine production. The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance certification scheme has existed since 2010. “Sustainability is not just a scheme but a philosophy we live out on a daily basis,” says Chris Savage, CSWA Board Member and Environmental Officer at Gallo Vineyards. “This commitment and its positive impact will also safeguard growth in the Californian wine business in future.” In five years the number of companies taking part in the sustainability scheme rose by 66%. California is considered the current market leader in terms of sustainability.
New Zealand Aiming for Pole Position
New Zealand could claim this ranking if it achieves the objective set by New Zealand Winegrowers in 2007 to switch its entire area under vine to sustainability by 2012 under an environmental auditing programme. Organic and bio-dynamic cultivation as well as certification according to ISO 14001 are also part of this. By association accounts, an estimated 94% of the area under vine and 90% of the companies are involved here at present; the goal is to increase the areas under vine cultivated ecologically to 20% by 2020.
Seal for South Africa
From the 2010 vintage South African producers can demonstrate their sustainable cultivation with an extra seal on the bottle neck: “Sustainable Wines of South Africa”. This complements the “Wine of Origin” seal and is issued according to guidelines laid down since the 2000 harvest by Integrated Production of Wine (IPW), which corresponds to global standards (such as the FIVS or the OIV). The new seal is also a focus of the Wines of South Africa presentation at ProWein 2012. Some 95% of South African grapes are now cultivated sustainably – in fact on a voluntary basis. Consumers can trace back every wine on the Sustainable Wines of South Africa website using the seal code number (www.swsa.co.za).
Certifications in Germany
Without neutral certification sustainability is a criterion that is difficult to evaluate and one that producers can use very easily. Now the German Institute for Sustainable Development (Deutsches Institut für Nachhaltige Entwicklung e.V. – DINE) at Heilbronn University offers certifications; the first wine estate in Germany to bear the Fair Choice logo is the Ecovin estate Neumer/Kellerei Weinmann Organics (Rheinhessen). Commenting on the successful DINE pilot projects the Baden-Württemberg Minister for Rural Areas and Consumer Protection, Alexander Bonde, said: “Value creation and sustainability are not mutually exclusive but mutually dependant. With an intelligent sustainability strategy many promising opportunities open up: such as new customers, more efficiency and innovation.”
Austria on Track
The topic of sustainability is also on the agenda in Austria. The Director of the Austrian Wine Cultivation Association, Josef Glatt, intends to achieve “a stronger positioning of Austrian wine in terms of sustainability building upon previous achievements in terms of environmentally sound production methods as well as organic and or integrated wine production.”
The sustainability concept has now paired up with organic trends in the most important producer countries. Both international trends meet the expectations of a growing number of consumers who are prepared to pay more for environmentally sound products and good quality. Visitors to ProWein 2012 will be able to gather comprehensive information on both developments.
The author Dr. Rolf Klein is a freelance wine journalist and writer.
Press photos for ProWein can be found in our photo database under the “Press Service” section at www.prowein.com.