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
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas