From wine to water

It's not just food that is behind the success of the organic movement
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

A bottled water aimed at children might sound like an oxymoron - after all, how many kids do you know who prefer water to sugar-laden soft drinks? But one company is having a bash at it. Highland Spring, the first British natural mineral water to achieve organic status (not because the water itself is organic, but because of its catchment area on organic land in Perthshire), has introduced water in lunchbox-sized bottles.

A bottled water aimed at children might sound like an oxymoron - after all, how many kids do you know who prefer water to sugar-laden soft drinks? But one company is having a bash at it. Highland Spring, the first British natural mineral water to achieve organic status (not because the water itself is organic, but because of its catchment area on organic land in Perthshire), has introduced water in lunchbox-sized bottles.

More than 53 per cent of the adult population drink bottled water, so the company is appealing to parents. "Children consume far too much sugar, and more of it comes from fizzy drinks than any other type of food or drink," says Julie McGarvey of Highland Spring. "But we're realistic - we know that kids adore soft drinks. That's why we're asking parents to educate them, to give them a healthy, sugar and additive-free option in Highland Spring for Kids."

It looks as though companies with clout are beginning to pursue an organic drinks - and not just food-led - ethos.

"Currently, a small percentage of dedicated consumers are accounting for the majority of organic sales, while food scares periodically prompt others to buy organic," says Simon Legge of Bonterra Organic Wine. "But we need to go mainstream and broaden our appeal."

In 2003, £20m worth of wines - produced from the 1 per cent of the world's vineyards that are certified organic - were sold in the UK. There are no comprehensive figures for organic beer and spirits, but Waitrose say their sales of organic beer have increased 27 per cent, and their organic vodka and gin are also healthy growers - up 8 per cent.

"The organic 'ticket' is just one factor in our success," says Hugh Trip of Avalon, an organic vineyard in Somerset. "People buy our wine because they like the taste, because it's English, or because it's local to them."

Meanwhile, at Seddlescombe in Sussex, Britain's oldest organic vineyard, a 2003 Regent Oak Matured Red won a citation at a recent English Wine of the Year awards - proof that organic wine can stand shoulder to shoulder with non-organic vintages.

It's not always the case. Organic wine, made from grapes grown without the routine spraying of chemicals, is preserved with low levels of sulphur dioxide. "This means that if wine isn't stored or transported correctly, it will spoil quickly," says Monty Waldin, author of the Organic Wine Guide.

And what about the severity of your hangover? Some say the less preservative used, the milder the headache. But if the organic wine has a high alcohol content, and you greedily quaff bottles of the stuff, then you only have yourself to blame come the morning.

In North London, the Duke of Cambridge is one of two certified organic gastropubs in the UK. The other is its sister outfit, The Crown, in Victoria Park (see opposite). When they opened five years ago, owners Geetie Singh and Esther Boulton persuaded two breweries to become certified. Freedom, based in Fulham, now supply them with an organic lager brewed in Germany, while Pitfield Brewery in Hoxton has created, among others, the Singhboulton bitter, brewed locally, and named in honour of the pair. These traditional beers are brewed with organic hops. The mixture is left to mature slowly and is neither pasteurised nor fed "speed-brewing" chemicals.

Alas, locally grown organic hops are scarce, and most brewers import at least some of their hops from New Zealand, the United States or Germany, with all the environmental damage that food miles entail. But farmers, understandably, won't be tempted to convert to organic hop crops until consumer demand grows.

Patrick Clarke, who sells his Yorkshire-brewed organic beer through Beersinabox.com, believes that time isn't far off. "Last year we supplied Vintage Roots [an organic wine, beer and spirits specialist] 72 cases a month; this year it's 72 a week. Awareness is growing and people are beginning to appreciate the complex flavours of an organic pint." Clarke's confidence, and that of other organic beverage producers, spells out a vision of the future that's organic, locally produced and full of flavour. And we can all drink to that.

Comments