Nicholas Jones, Head Buyer and Winemaker at Winebuyers, debunks the myths around organic wines and explains why they're important.
Why go organic when it comes to wine?
There’s something a little bit special about wine. It’s a celebration, a reward and a delicacy. A lunch time treat, an evening calm-me-down or night-time pick-me-up. People rave about wine more than they do other drinks; each and every one of us wine lovers will have our favourite. We visit vineyards to try something new, to see the wine made and to listen to the creators at work, whilst too admiring the beautiful lands where the grapes are grown. The perception of wine has always been important – from its role in religious ceremonies to its significance at the grandest tables and now, more than ever, in our future.
We need to respect the ecosystems in and around the vineyard. Hammering the soil, and all that stems from it, with pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers can lead to such extreme consequences as desertification, the death of bees, the extinction of species, sickness in humans and, eventually, our own extinction. With water running into watercourses and eventually into the ocean – the knock-on effects of un-organic farming practises are widespread and sometimes devastating. I have witnessed the poisoning of water courses with sodium arsenide, which is illegal in specific areas of vineyards, resulting in the death of marine life and even reaching the local town’s drinking water.
More and more, we are becoming aware of the environmental significance of using – and consuming – organic produce. The seas are rising and we need to re-think our impact on the world, even through what we drink on a Saturday evening.
Soil health is extremely important to vineyards and there are natural ways to maintain a healthy soil profile, but many are relying far too much on chemicals to do a job previously done by the natural habitat. While we can’t say that organic wine is necessarily healthier, knowing that you are buying a wine that is organic is knowing that the winemaker is focused on quality and diligence.
However, the perception that organic wines are of a higher quality should be taken with a pinch of salt. There are so many things that can impact quality – from the time of year, the location, the pruning date, the quality of the workforce, the temperature at time of picking – the list goes on! Simply being an organic wine is not a seal of quality but merely a commitment to the environment, which many respect and are reassured by.
Of course, some cynics might say it is a bit of a marketing ploy and it’s important to seek the truth. I have known quite a few producers lump organically treated grapes and non-organically treated grapes together – yet still whack the ‘O’ word on the label, knowing they can charge more for it when bottled and it will appeal to a certain audience. The governing bodies are not there to check every operation and some will exploit this to their advantage.
The future of organic wine
Every grape grower wants consistency. But, as the environment becomes more changeable, winemakers are seeing the need to be more responsive to disease pressures which could be a threat to the production of organic wines. A bit of a catch-22 for sure but perhaps it’s too late to stop this trend by the widespread adoption of organic viticulture.
However, organic wine is undoubtedly on the rise and I believe the market and expectation from consumers will only continue to grow as we connect with how we are really impacting the world we live in – and how we can limit it.
Start saving the world, one grape at a time. We've got over 700 organic wines from trusted, quality winemakers and specialist merchants just waiting to be discovered.
About Nicholas Jones, Head Buyer at Winebuyers
With over a decade in the alcohol industry, Nick has worked in all areas of the wine and spirits industry. Starting work with a renowned UK wine merchant, Nicholas moved into winemaking after obtaining a BSc. in Viticulture and Oenology, working at some of the world's top wine estates and launching several premium wines. Nick is well-versed in delivering world class wine and has even turned his hand to making mead - which wasn't too bad either.