In the UK and USA, producers are increasingly making wines labeled organic or produced from organically grown grapes. The meaning and legal force of these terms can vary significantly from one country to another.
A key point to add at this stage is the difference between organically grown grapes – fruit from vineyards grown without the use of industrial fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides – and wines made without synthetic preservative additives.
Organic Vineyards – Where it all begins!
An organic vineyard is one where grapes are grown without chemical fertilizers, weed killers, insecticides, or other synthetic chemicals. This prevents damage to soil and ensures that no chemicals end up in the wine as residue. Organic farmers aim to maintain healthy, biologically active soil whose fertility is provided by plants that fix nitrogen from the air. In the vineyard it means planting cover crops between the avenues of the vines instead of applying herbicide. Naturally occurring plant or mineral extracts leave no residue in the soil, and weeds are kept down with the use of mechanical and hand hoes. Biodiversity is promoted through the plants, which help regulate the vineyard soil by attracting beneficial insects, spiders and predatory mites.
The Role of Certification and the Organic Market
When a label says organic, it means the wine has met certain standards that are set by a government agency. Different nations have their own certification criteria, so whats organic in one country may not be so in another. In the UK the Soil Association is the most recognized and used certification body.
Many wineries that are technically organic still choose not to be certified. There are many reasons for this. Some do not want the added costs and bureaucracy of registering. Others may disagree with their governments standards. Whatever the case, they are not allowed to use organic on their labels.
There is a national government target for 30 per cent of all UK farmland to be organic or in conversion by 2010, and 20 per cent of the food consumed to be organic by 2010. The UK grocery market was worth $206 billion in 2006 and USA 634.7$ billion. This growth in the organic food market will have a knock on effect on the drinks industry and will meet the ever-growing demand from consumers for organic wine, which is better for drinkers and better for the environment.
Financial Incentives to Companies to turn Organic
In 2005, 39% of the world organic farmland is in Australia and New Zealand. To combat this The European Union (EU) offers financial support to organic farmers as an incentive for farmers to convert to organic production and help the sector grow. These grants provide farmers with assistance during the period of conversion to organic farming which usually takes three years.
Organic Beers and Spirits
While not so widely available as organic wine, organic spirits are available through specialist suppliers. The production process for organic spirits does not differ widely from conventional production. The main difference lies in the use of organic raw materials. Organic beers are now available in a number of pubs and supermarkets and tend to use organic hops.
Fancy visiting an organic vineyard?
If you are into Organic wine why not visit England’s Premier organic vineyard. In addition to processing fruit on site, Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard is one of the main tourist attractions in the 1066 Country region in and around Hastings attracting some 5,000 visitors per annum to its Vineyard & Woodland Nature Trail + Wine tasting.