For the Love of Wine
If winegrowers had any doubts over the popularity and effectiveness of organic production, they should have been dispelled earlier this month.
The Organic and Biodynamic Winegrowers Conference, organised by Organic Winegrowers New Zealand and sponsored by BioGro, was attended by over 250 winegrowers from throughout the country.
Themed Below, Above and Beyond, the three day conference focussed on every aspect of the winegrowing and winemaking process, from undervine health and soil structure, to management of wine in the vineyard, to how organic wine is enjoyed by consumers.
The conference attracted leaders in the specialised organic and biodynamic winemaking field from around the world. This included French pioneer of biodynamic winemaking, Philippe Armenier, esteemed wine consultant, Monty Waldin and Australian wine writer, Max Allen.
Monty Waldin showed how organic wine plantings and consumer consumption has steadily increased globally over the last 30 years. Since 2007, global organic hectare numbers have increased from 2 per cent to just over 5 per cent, he said.
BioGro’s Audit Manager, Jared White, also unveiled crucial new figures indicating exactly where New Zealand’s organic wine industry sits in comparison to the rest of the world. Until now this has been hard to quantify.
Over the last 20 years New Zealand’s organic wine production has grown exponentially. So what does this growth look like?
- Between 1989 and 1999, there were 6 certified organic vineyards. There were no certified wineries.
- In 2007, there were 20 certified vineyards and 11 certified wineries.
- In 2015, the number of certified vineyards topped 165. There are currently 69 certified wineries under organic management.
This year, 5.4 per cent of all viticulture land in New Zealand became certified organic and 12.5 per cent of winegrowers have at least one certified organic vineyard. BioGro certifies over 95 per cent of all certified viticulture land.
The newest data not only confirms that New Zealand is on par with the rest of the world, it indicates that we are global leaders.
New Zealand’s organic and biodynamic winegrowers are an ethical bunch who are dedicated to supporting the environment, soil health, wildlife and biodiversity in the long-term.
However, our winegrowers are unique because unlike major markets such as the EU and US, there are no subsidies to convert to organic production. Winegrowers here are transitioning simply because they believe in it.
Many leading New Zealand wine brands have taken up the organic or biodynamic challenge. The likes of Villa Maria, Pernod Ricard, Mission Estate, Huia, Wither Hills, Gibbston Valley and Cloudy Bay are recognising the benefits of growing organically - whether this is financially, environmentally or an opportunity to distinguish their brand within the consumer market.
Whether or not organic wine receives a premium was also a lively topic of conversation amongst attendees. However, unlike other organic industries, it is harder to quantify as there are many other determining factors involved, including brand story, sustainability, community, wellbeing and overall wine quality.
In comparison, the pip fruit industry receives between 20 and 60 per cent premium for organic produce. Kiwifruit growers receive a 34 per cent premium. Fonterra have also recently increased their premium pay-out for organic farmers, paying 20 per cent more for organic milk including 7 percent during the conversion period.
It was agreed amongst speakers that organic wine is certainly worth the premium. They also discussed that consumers are willing to pay more for New Zealand organic wine because it is of quality.
The New Zealand organic wine industry aims to be “20% by 2020,” meaning 20 per cent of all vineyards will be converted to organic or biodynamic production within the next five years.
This is a worthy goal, and one that is very achievable given the passionate discussions and new figures unveiled at the conference. Organic wine production is making steady progress amongst the prominent winemaking regions, and BioGro will always be committed to supporting and backing the movement.