Health, well-being and organics have long shared the same breath and while they naturally go hand in hand it’s taken a global pandemic for many people to fully appreciate the impact of organics on people and the planet.
Never has there been so much interest or emphasis on what we put in, and on, our bodies – nor such an acute awareness of the need to work towards a healthier future. As a result, organics are becoming more and more mainstream with consumers driving demand for everything from cosmetics to organic wine.
The Organic Trade Association in North America claims COVID-19 will shape the organic industry in 2020 as shoppers search for healthy, clean food to feed their at-home families. Organic produce sales reportedly jumped by more than 50 percent in the early days of lockdown in the US and many New Zealand organic food suppliers sold out in record time
Organics Aotearoa New Zealand says organic production continues to grow steadily in New Zealand to meet international demand. The 2018 OANZ market report found that the New Zealand organic sector grew 30% in three years, reaching a value of $600 million per year in 2018.
September will see an extra focus on the organic movement with New Zealand’s Organic Week celebrated from 5 - 13 September and Organic Wine Week 21 – 27 September. Marked with a series of global online events the aim is to increase awareness, educate consumers and support organic producers.
For Organic Winegrowers New Zealand (OWNZ) those objectives are all part of their ongoing strategy. Set up 10 years ago with collaboration and support from NZ Winegrowers, OWNZ is a grower-led organisation dedicated to supporting and encouraging the production of high quality, organic and biodynamically grown wines.
Mandy Weaver, Deputy Chair of OWNZ, is co-owner of Churton Vineyard in Marlborough with husband Sam and has 30 years’ experience of farming with an ecological approach. Churton is farmed biodynamically and produces 100% organically certified wines. She says what’s exciting in the wine industry today is the huge increase in demand for organically grown grapes.
“Those growers who’ve invested in organics are producing top quality fruit which commands a higher price and the demand is huge,” says Mandy. She says the way New Zealand has dealt with the coronavirus has also put the country in a strong position globally, highlighting the benefits of a country that can “really look after place and people.”
Around 10% of New Zealand wineries now produce fully certified organic with many more currently in transition. Some vineyards solely grow organic grapes for supply and others are adopting organic principals in various aspects of operation.
OWNZ says wine figures differ in the overall organic story because there are so many factors that influence price point. Wineries are offering a higher price for organic grapes because the quality is so much better. It is something that isn’t lost on growers at all ends of the spectrum – from small family-owned wineries to large New Zealand companies like Villa Maria who are putting a higher and higher percentage of land into organics.
It takes three years to become fully certified and once registered with BioGro or AsureQuality – the New Zealand organisations that provide internationally recognised organic certification – you’re on a pathway lined with support through all aspects of the process right along to trade and marketing.
A strong movement within the New Zealand organic sector is biodynamics where growers follow the same standard practices as organic growers but also use special plant, animal and mineral preparations, and work closely with the rhythmic influences of the sun, moon and planets to maximise the natural potency of their land.
Co-ordinator of Organic Winegrowers New Zealand, Rebecca Reider, says New Zealand has a climate well suited to organics and being a young, innovative industry where people are interested in trying something different, helps to drive a strong organic movement. “The companies involved are diverse . So many of the organic producers are families really connected to the land. Young families are driving the move to organics and diversity. They’re directly engaged with what they are doing.”
And while the country is well positioned to make the most of its global reputation, Mandy Weaver says it’s important to be authentic. “New Zealand will always have the perception of being clean and green in its existence. What we need to be mindful of is that we don’t greenwash. We want to be true to our environmental endeavours. People think of New Zealand and the word ‘organic’ fits perfectly but we need to prove that as well.”
So what are the benefits of drinking organic wine?
- You know what you’re consuming – all natural products and no synthetic chemicals
- More flavour – healthy grapevines produce flavourful wines that are a true expression of the land
- Protecting the landscape – healthier soils, waterways and biodiversity safe for bees and other beneficial insects
- Supporting vineyard worker health
- Collaborating for a more stable climate
How do I buy organic wine?
- Many supermarkets have dedicated areas for organic products – wine included
- Check wine labels – not always obvious but check the back and do some research
- Shop at your local wine merchant or specialist – they are well versed in origin and which wines are authentically organic
- Survey restaurant wine lists – if the menu style is sympathetic to organics and fresh, healthy food, it is likely wines have been given the same consideration.