Organic wine joins the chemical-free dinner party

Organic wine, once viewed as one of the most marginal outposts of the organic movement, is getting the nod from the public.

Retailers are reporting strong sales of organically produced wine from shoppers concerned about how their drink affects the environment and their health.

Supermarkets and wine merchants are quickly expanding their ranges of organic wines to satisfy the growing demand.

Thresher, the high-street off-licence chain, is planning to extend its range of organic wines to include a South African Pinotage and a Shiraz.

Sainsbury's, which is to introduce two organic wines in the autumn, says that sales of its organic So range have increased by 492 per cent in the past year.

Waitrose considers its chemical-free range to be an integral part of its offering.

The grapes for organic wine are grown without chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, with a few minor exceptions such as the use of copper sulphate to combat mildew. Allowed, too, are additives such as sulphur, essential to preserve the life of wine, though they are more strictly controlled than in normal wine.

Technically, under EU rules no wine should be labelled organic - merely as coming from organically grown grapes - because wine is the only category exempt from EU Organic Regulation 2092 stipulating what may be termed organic. The European Commission is expected to change that soon. Nevertheless, advocates of organic wine say that the lower level of human intervention results in a cleaner, purer juice and other benefits including reduced pollution and financial support for smaller - often family - wine-makers.

Jem Gardener, managing director of Leeds-based Vinceremos, which has a range of 300 organic wines, beers and spirits, said: "We don't make big claims. A very large part of the quality of the wine is the skill of the winemaker ... but there's a large body of opinion, and I myself believe, that organic production produces the best grapes."

Although the rolling hills of France's wine-producing regions do not seem to be suffering from any environmental blight, Mr Gardener said that, on visits to Continental producers, he noticed on close inspection how the "healthy, loamy soil" of organic vineyards contrasted with the "dry, dusty soil and withered plants" of neighbouring vines.

Demand for organic wine fits with a trend for shoppers caring more about the provenance and naturalness of their food.

Guy Woodward, acting editor of Decanter wine magazine, said: "Certainly with the trade there has been a greater willingness to give organic wine a try. There are some very good producers now who are cultivating their wine organically or biodynamically [a kind of ultra-organic process]." Of the top 10 white wine producers identified in Decanter's July issue, four were organic.

So is organic wine better? Mr Woodward said: "Not all organic wine producers are making good wine but there certainly are more good organic wines being made. But I'm not sure there will be a lot of difference for the average customer."

Sainsbury's, which has reported booming demand for organic food, with sales up 18 per cent on the year, stocks organic Chardonnay, Shiraz and Chilean Merlot and is launching an organic Soave next month and a South African Fairtrade Shiraz in November. Its most popular organic wines are Pinot Grigio and the Valpolicella.

A spokeswoman for Waitrose, which stocks 23 organic lines including a Champagne and a rosé, said: "Organic wines are certainly popular with our customers and we are expanding the range."

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury's said: "The growth has been driven both by customers demanding organic wine but also and perhaps more importantly, by wineries giving organic wine more focus than before. Due to this increased attention, it is now possible to get a high quality organic wine for under £5, from countries as widely spread as Chile, France and South Africa."

Five recommended organic wines

* 2005 Le Ciste Côtes du Roussillon Blanc, Eric Laguerre, £9.99, Booths supermarkets. A zingy blend of southern French grapes with a lemony tang.

* 2004 Novas Syrah Mourvèdre, Colchagua Valley, £8.95, Vintage Roots (01189 761999), Geowines (01159 827836). Blackberry fruits with spicy oak texture from Chile.

* 2004 Bonterra Chardonnay, £8.99, two for £7.49, Majestic Wine Warehouses. A appetising dry California chardonnay from Fetzer.

* Albet i Noya Cava Can Vendrell, NV, £7.25, Vintage Roots, Fresh & Wild. A fine fresh, crisply dry Spanish sparkler for special or not so special occasions.

* Fleury et Fils Brut NV Champagne, £22.99, Waitrose. Intense, polished, Pinot Noir-based Champagne.

Anthony Rose

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map