Organic wines in Asia

Organic wines will feature at Vinexpo Hong Kong in May, further evidence of their growing credibility. For publication in week starting 18 December 2017.

Organic, natural and biodynamic wines will have a unique location for the first time at Vinexpo Hong Kong in May next year. The move was designed as a way to introduce the WOW! (World of Organic Wines!) concept to Asian buyers and consumers.

WOW! featured for the first time at Vinexpo Bordeaux in June this year. About 150 organic, natural and biodynamic wines were available for tasting. Vinexpo officials said it was an immediate success with importers, sommeliers and wine merchants seeking a “clearly defined organic offer” to meet the “growing demand” for organic wines.

Alvaro Baños of Bodegas las Cepas in Spain said WOW! in Bordeaux gave winemakers the chance to meet a huge number of industry professionals from around the world. “The buyers who visit this organic wine area know exactly what they’re looking for, which is a great time saver. We boosted our sales at Vinexpo Bordeaux and have decided to repeat the exercise at Vinexpo Hong Kong to gain a better understanding of the Asian market.”

At least 50 producers from around the world will be involved with WOW! at Vinexpo Hong Kong. The idea behind WOW! was to make Vinexpo accessible to small-scale winemakers, so exhibitor packages for this major wine event have been kept relatively low at about €1,500 or USD 1,770.

The organic market in Asia is undergoing solid growth. Organic produce, which includes wine and spirits, was worth USD 7,500 million in 2014, the most recent year when data were available. Of that USD 4,500 million was spent in China. Specialist stores are appearing there in increasing numbers, especially in Beijing and Shanghai.

Wine consumption is following the same trend and is expected to gain “further momentum” in coming years. This is because of the rapid increase in the number of Chinese vineyards producing wines from organic farming, a Vinexpo spokesman said.

The Sopexa Wine Trade Monitor published in November last year predicted growth possibilities for China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea over the two years to the end of next year. Sopexa is a global communications agency that focuses on the wine and food industries.

Major growth was expected in relation to organic and natural wines in Japan. About two in five industry professionals there anticipated an increase in sales of organic, biodynamic and natural wines to the end of 2018.

The Sopexa report quoted Carl Robinson, CEO of Tokyo importer Jeroboam, as saying that demand for natural wines in Japan was extremely high. Many of Tokyo’s best restaurants served them. “After the earthquake and Fukushima, people were even more careful about what they ate and drank. Honesty in labelling has become very important to the Japanese who are also more demanding than ever when it comes to quality,” Robinson said.

Interestingly, in China only 10 per cent of the industry predicted growth in organic wines, with 3 per cent forecasting more interest in natural wines.

In 1999 under one per cent of the world’s vineyards were certified organic, biodynamic or in the process of being converted. By 2017 the total was unknown, but was definitely growing. Demeter International, a non-profit organisation that bestowed its first biodynamic label in 1928, is the leading certification organisation worldwide. In France, long regarded as a traditional wine nation, biodynamic wine certifications have been growing at least 10 per cent a year for the past decade.

Much debate exists over the definitions of natural, biodynamic and organic wine. The legal definition of organic wine varies from country to country and usually focuses on the use of preservatives.

Organic wine is made from organically grown grapes. This generally means winemakers reject the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides when growing grapes. But the wines may be subject to chemical and physical manipulation during the winemaking process.

A growing number of winemakers are making wine without added preservatives. But it is generally acknowledged that these wines are meant to be consumed within a few years of bottling.

Certain types of wines improve with age, when flavours become more integrated and balanced. Currently the only effective preservatives that allow wines to last for a long time in the cellar are “non-organic”.

The addition of sulphites to help wines mature is debated heavily within the organic winemaking community. Some winemakers believe it is acceptable to use sulphites in small quantities. In Europe wines with added sulphites that are otherwise organic are labelled “wine made from organic grapes”.

Natural wine is made with minimum technological intervention during both the growing phase and in the winery. The term is used to distinguish these wines from organic wine and biodynamic wine because of differences in cellar practices. As well as being made from organic or biodynamic grapes, natural wines come from vineyards that have not been irrigated and with low yields. They have no added sugars, use only natural yeasts, with no adjustments for acidity (acidification), no fining or filtration and no manipulation via things like micro-oxygenation or reverse osmosis.

Biodynamic wine involves a set of farming practices that view the vineyard as one organism. This style of growing works on the idea of sustainability – that is, viticulturalists aim to leave the land in as good or better shape as when they found it. Some of these practices are proven scientifically, like organic practices. Others such as the use of homoeopathic preparations have attracted criticism for being esoteric. The planets’ influence on the growing season and on vineyard and winery operations is also taken into account.

Monty Waldin, author of Biodynamic Wine (published last year), says biodynamics produces unique wines and notes that some of the world’s most famous wine estates such as Chateau Petrus in Bordeaux and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti in Burgundy are biodynamic. Scientist and wine writer Jamie Goode describes biodynamics as a “supercharged version of organic farming”.

Vinexpo Hong Kong next May offers wine consumers a chance to discover the delights of organic, natural and biodynamic wines.

Footnote: The new name for the national body representing the English and Welsh wine industry, announced this week, is Wines of Great Britain. It will use the shortened “WineGB” in all its communications.

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Categories: biodynamics, Not home, organic, wine

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