Cendrine Vimont from Sudvinbio, organisers of organic wine trade fair Millésime Bio, looks ahead to more attention on organic wines in the on-trade in 2018
As we approach the turn of the year, all eyes are on the food and drink trends to watch for 2018. This year, it seems organic wines are set to experience their moment in the spotlight, with consumers and industry bodies alike demonstrating a growing appreciation of products with environmental, ethical and health credentials.
At Sudvinbio, we have seen the profile of organic wines boom across the globe, and what was once considered a niche market has become more and more ubiquitous. This has been reflected in the growth of our annual trade fair, Millésime Bio, set to return in January for its 25th year with a bigger exhibitor and visitor attendance than ever before.
The growth in the market extends to the on-trade, with bars and restaurants across the country appreciating the worth of having a selection of organic wines on their lists. This spike in popularity can be attributed to various factors, ranging from industry developments to changing consumer behavior.
Trends in tastebuds
Across the board, consumers are becoming more conscious of the environment and their health, in turn making them far more selective than they were 10 years ago. With food and drink products being placed under increasing scrutiny, wine is taking an even more severe hit as a product that is not a basic need, but a “pleasure” that needs to meet a certain quality mark.
This is most noticeable in the on-trade, where consumers feel a need to understand what they’re getting for the extra money they’re spending over drinking at home. Wine lovers are not only keen to understand more around the provenance of what they’re drinking, but also the production methods behind their favourite tipple.
Organic wines are often viewed in the same light as Fairtrade produce, with consumers appreciating the quality stamp that comes with the terroir-driven methods used to grow the grapes, and the meticulous care that goes into the whole process, from vine to bottle. This in turn translates into an understanding that the wines are of a higher caliber, offering not just fuller flavours, but also more scope to impress fellow diners and imbibers.
What’s more, a recent study* by Sudvinbio revealed that one in three wine drinkers regularly choose organic wines and 21% of these are aged under 35. This is an impressive statistic when we consider that this particular demographic only represents 15% of total wine consumers. With this age group being one of the most active on the bar and restaurant scene it presents a huge opportunity for the on-trade to capitalise on the younger generation’s taste for organic.
Ask most consumers what sets organic wine apart and they will call out the natural farming methods that give all organic products their premium status. What is less understood, however, is the additional time required from the winery to craft these wines, which calls for more manpower to compensate for the lack of chemicals, machinery and pesticides. This increase in employment opportunities in the vineyards helps to contribute to the category’s ethical credentials, with an organic wine estate employing on average 1.5 times the amount of staff that a conventional estate does.
Furthermore, the natural methods used on organic vineyards have direct benefits on the winemakers and workers themselves, reducing the risk of illnesses caused by the prolific presence of chemicals on normal vineyards. Many organic winemakers have even reported having rediscovered a real “purpose” and strengthened interest in their work, as the return to nature engenders a stronger connection to the terroir.
With more consumers than ever buying Fairtrade**, there is an opportunity to educate consumers about some of the ethical parallels with organic wines, which in turn will drive sales in the on-trade. Restaurants are reaping the rewards of offering more sustainable dishes on their menus and there’s a strong case for wine lists to follow suit.
Telling the food and wine story
Within the restaurant scene we’re seeing a shift towards simpler cooking and a return to natural ingredients. Head chefs are paring back both their menus and their recipes, resulting in dishes which lend themselves perfectly to being paired with organic wines.
Seasonal produce is also having its moment in the spotlight, with many restaurants and bars adapting their menus throughout the year to celebrate ingredients currently at their best. This is mirrored in the terroir-focused approach of organic winemaking, with the growers being led by the seasons rather than manufacturing to meet their own needs. This storytelling tie-up between seasonal food and wine is a vital USP that those in the on-trade can use to endorse presence of organic wines behind their bars.
With more and more wine lovers embracing the organic category the market is developing to offer a broader range of wines suitable for any occasion, and all budgets. With nearly 1,000 exhibitors from 16 countries, the world’s leading organic wine fair, Millésime Bio, is the ideal place to source organic wines from around the world (pictured). The fair will be returning to Montpellier’s Parc des Expositions for its 25th year from January 29 to 31, 2018. For further information, visit www.millesime-bio.com.
*Sudvinbio study – Europeans and organic wine, 2015
**TNS study with Fairtrade Foundation, 2017