Organic wines - An overview

Posted on02/16/2023 by


I. Current state of the wine market


Here, at Pleasure Wine, we're rather fond of organic wine. That's actually why we have so many bottles of organic wine currently in store (as a matter of fact, almost half of our stock is organic wine). In a series of posts, we wanted to share with you everything we know about organic wine. For this first part, let's go over what organic wine actually is and then we'll talk numbers. This will be a quick overview of the current wine market, to see what's changed from 2022 to 2023. In a third part, we'll think about the pros and cons of organic winemaking, from a producer's point of view. Let's begin!


1. The organic wine market in 2022


sales of organic wine in different countries

"Evolution of the consumption of organic wine in the world, per country, from 2013 to 2023" (study by Statista, 2022)


First of all, let's take a few minutes to answer one question: what is organic winemaking, exactly? Well, going with the dictionary definition, organic wine comes from grapes that have been grown using no chemical products (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides...) An organic vineyard is thus simply nature doing its job, with very little human intervention.

To assure consumers that their wine is 100% organic, most winemakers choose to add a label on the bottles, given to them by an official organic wine certification company. By the way, be careful with the term "organic", as the general public sometimes uses it for a bit of everything: regular organic agriculture, biodynamics, vegan wine, natural wine... We'll take a look at these different categories in an upcoming blog post.

Going beyond organic wine, let's take a look at the phenomenon in its entirety. We can quickly notice that this is not a new trend at all. Love for organic products, like clothes or food for example, has been awakened in many people a few years back (it's been a "thing" since the 1920's, actually). And, more than a feeling, organic products now need to follow specific sets of rules and guidelines. Since the 1990's in France, at least.

It could have been a simple trend that died almost as fast as it was born, but organic products have been an epiphany for the entire population of the world. The organic market may have been declining a tiny bit (according to a study by the Agence Bio Française - link in French), it still is kept alive and well by consumers who see the huge benefits for the environment and their own health.

As for organic wine, looking at the numbers, we see that 20% of the entire French vineyard (that is to say more than 750 000 hectares as a whole) is currently either certified organic or ongoing the certification process. With more than 160 000 hectares of grapevines, the French have the second biggest organic vineyard in Europe. In 2022, the French vineyard's output was around 45 million of hectoliters, something like 6 billion of 75 cl bottles. These numbers are for wine in general, whether organic or not, and only for a single year of production.

That's for the French wine output, but what about the sales of organic wine? Since 2013, they have more than doubled, as we went from 441.7 to 932.7 million of bottles of organic wine sold in the world. That's from 2013 to 2022 (see the above graphics, also available on Statista's website - link in French). An incredible breakthrough for organic wine! But what motivates someone to pick a bottle of organic wine instead of a regular one?

According to a survey by the IPSOS institute (link in French) from October 2021, on a sample of 3 000 people of French, German and British origin, more than 50% of the population truly want to know where their food comes from. They also love buying local, picking short food supply chains whenever possible. When it comes to wine, a third of them buys organic wine at least once a month and tends to consume some once every week.

The answers regarding organic wine show that 39% of the people drink it "regularly" or "from time to time", with the French being the number one wine drinkers. And why do people prefer organic wine? Well, according to them, organic wine would be better for the environment, the producers and the consumers. Quality is also a word that popped up a lot during their explanations, as 29% of the people say that organic wine is synonymous with a better quality wine. All in all, organic wines seem to have a very positive image.


2. The organic wine market in 2023


worldwide sales of organic wine in 2023

"In 2023, France will have the second largest vineyard in the world" (study by IWSR, for Sud Vin Bio, 2020)


According to the website Agence Bio (link in French), France is the second country with the biggest organic vineyard in the entire world. As we saw earlier, international sales in 2022 amounted to almost 933 million of bottles, which is about 3.5% of the general wine sales (around 28 billion of bottles sold). Projected sales for 2023 are around 976 million bottles (a number that's been confirmed by both Statista and IWSR). This represents an increase of 43 million of bottles sold (+4.4%).

An IWSR study for the Association Sud Vin Bio (link in French) in 2020, shows that the global market remains almost stable, despite a tiny drop from 2021 to 2022, where it went from 28.2 billion to 28 billion bottles sold. Compare that to the general wine market and you'll see that organic wine is booming and things are not going to change anytime soon.

As for France, it represents 20% of organic wine consumers in 2023 (with 408 million of bottles sold), before Germany and the United States. Italy remains the best in everything: the first exporter of organic wine in the world (90.7% of the Italian organic wine production is destined to be exported) and the country is also the largest wine producer in the world, organic and non organic wines alike.

It looks like organic wine is going places. Its audience has gotten bigger thanks to the ever growing interest for healthier products that are also good for the environment. Looking at this from a consumer point of view, there seems to be nothing but pros. For a winemaker, it's pretty positive as well, although switching to organic agriculture can sometimes be a hassle for professionals.


3. The benefits of organic winemaking


On the winemakers' side, according to feedback coming from many wine estates, organic winemaking is considered to be a resurrection for the vineyard. A way to return to the old ways and to be closer to their forefathers (since they obviously didn't have the option to use chemical products or machines). It's also the perfect way for winemakers and nature to rekindle the flame.

A winemaker who follows the rules of organic agriculture can truly revitalize the soil of his vineyard, thanks to manual plowing (or using draft horses as well, as it's still much less invasive than driving a tractor). The use of natural fertilizers and composts (made with plant matter or minerals) is also excellent for the development of the soil's biomass. Letting the grass grow in the vineyard is a boon for the biodiversity too (although keep in mind that grass needs lots of water and nutrients).

Converting a wine estate to organic farming takes time. Not only that, it can be really dangerous in the beginning if the winemaker is not prepared for such a fundamental change. Plus, some grapevine illnesses that are especially nasty, like mildew or oidium, can sometimes resist non chemical treatments in the first years. The vineyard needs some time to prop up its defenses against illnesses, just like the human body does. A grapevine that's been cared for with natural means beforehand, will often have better immunity.

During the organic conversion, a wine estate will produce much less bottles than before, since the output is going to be impacted by the changes. Since the grapevines can't be as heavily sollicited as before, they'll give less fruits and thus less wine. That's something a winemaker must absolutely keep in mind and the switch must be anticipated by slowly lowering the output before the switch. A conversion to organic methods also means that you will need to strictly adhere to rules and guidelines if you want to obtain (and keep) a specific label.

To sum it all up, making organic wine means more efforts and spending more money. That's also why the organic wines you see in the store are sometimes a bit pricier than regular wines. In the end, consumers do get a product that was made using no (or very little) pesticides or chemical fertilizers, but the whole process demands hard work and sacrifices.

As we saw earlier, the term "organic" can mean many things for people. Some consumers and producers alike have even become very fond of somethings called biodynamics. A philosophy that is not new at all but is becoming more and more popular nowadays. It means to push the envelope of organic winemaking. We will see you soon for our article about the universe of biodynamic wine!


In the meantime, feel free to take a look at our organic wine selection!


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