Consumer purchasing of organic wine continues to rise steadily in Europe. Wine producers must meet strict established European Union (EU) requirements before they can display the European organic label certification and market their wine as organic.
European organic production covers an area of over 150 hectares with Italy, Spain and France the leading organic wine producers. The first challenge for wine growers involves farming techniques; they need to produce quality grapes while protecting the natural balance of their vineyard and the environment. In the past, there were no EU rules and no logos for organic farming. “Wine made from organic grapes” was enough when referring to organic wine, vinification methods were not involved.
However, since March 2012 the European labeling rules require strict organic viticulture as well as winemaking techniques. Winemakers within the member states must now comply with the regulations and meet the standards set by a recognized organic certification body before they can use the term "organic wine" on their labels. Only then can they wine carry the EU Organic logo or label their product as organic.
The Organic European Label
The organic logo often referred to as "Euro-leaf" (with 12 stars from the European flag) was introduced in March 2010, it is easy to recognize and indicates that the wine confirms totally to the organic standards set out by the EU. Next to this compulsory logo for organic wine is the code number of the control authority.
Monitoring and Certification
Organic wine starts with grape growing. As with traditional grape growing, organic wine growers have to deal with pests and predators harmful to grape production. To comply with organic farming regulations, organic European owners must refrain from using chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
They must use instead 100% natural products. Maintaining healthy vines mean fighting significant diseases such as mildew, black rot and botrytis, challenging for farm owners who must use only authorized fungicides.
It took three years for French Vineyard owner Ivan Greslé to convert from traditional to organic wine production. Ecocert one of the main the Certification agencies visited the family estate Domaine Murennes, twice a year during the conversion period inspecting and making sure that all the organic regulations were carried out in the vineyards.
Proof of organic traceability, an essential element in organic farming is also verified by certification agents before issuing the yearly certificate to the organic wine growers. It includes checking the origin of all raw materials, verifying stock and financial records as well as making sure there is no risk of contamination between organic and nonorganic products. An Ecocert agent may often collect samples for laboratory analyses and carry out additional checks.
Greslé said he converted the family business, because of ‘our conviction and respect for the earth. He said that more than anything, they wanted to produce quality wine and to stop using pesticides on the land.
EU Organic Wine Can Contain Sulfites
The question of sulfites or sulphites often comes up when discussing organic wine. Basically, sulfites stop wine from going bad, it is a recognized preservative which prolongs the shelf life of wine. Some say sulfite causes people to suffer from headaches while wine lovers argue that all wine contains sulfites.
Unlike the US organic standards, EU organic wine regulations authorize the use of sulfites in organic wine.
European standards allow the addition of sulfites in the following proportions:
- maximum sulfite content set at 100 mg per liter for red wine
- 150mg/l for white/rosé
- 30mg/l differential where the residual sugar content is more than 2g per liter.
Production and Consumption
The figures for production and consumption of organic wine (bio wine in France) are encouraging.
Agence Bio, the French Governmental body for organic affairs reports:
- Organic vineyard cultivation has tripled over the last ten years with more than 5,263 organic grape growers listed in 2016.
- French households bought nearly 800 million euros of organic wines in 2016.
European Consumers in the 27 Member States looking for organic certification now have a standard label, an EU organic identifying logo they can trust, one that involves sustainable cultivation systems. Equally important, quality producers are now respecting the environment while nourishing and working the soil.
The Organic wine Industry is booming as both producers and consumers are now aiming for the green organic sticker the symbol that indicates that the aims and regulations for EU organic wine were met.