The June on-line tasting was enjoyed by 25 members. It was led by Neville Richardson on the subject of ‘Eco, biodynamic, natural, organic, sustainable – do these titles mean anything? Clever marketing tools or the future of wine?’ To ensure that participants got the most enjoyment out of the presentation, participants were encouraged to enjoy a glass of wine during the talk.
Starting from a low base, these categories of wine are amongst the fastest growing, with a recent survey showing that 70% of people would pay 35% more for eco-friendly products , the strongest support being from Millennials. In South Africa 85% of bottled wine exports are certified as having “integrity and sustainability” credentials. In Napa Valley a third of the vineyards are certified “sustainable” under the ‘Napa Green’ branding.
The principles behind these different categories are similar with lower levels of artificial intervention (fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, additives, etc) and greater use of organic fertilisers, naturally occurring yeasts and treatments. Some of these products are well defined and certified with the strictest being biodynamic, in which major activities such as planting and pruning are dictated by earth and celestial cycles. Some, such as natural and ecological often have no clear definition.
So, to the tasting. Neville introduced a proposal for a new wine scoring system which seeks to encourage a more objective assessment of the qualities of the wine and moving away from ‘it’s what I like’ scoring. Participants were encouraged to taste two whites and two reds each colour from the same grape (preferably verdejo and monastrell) same region and year and similar price. One of each colour was to have a clear mention on the label of eco, biodynamic, natural, organic or sustainable. The other, no mention of any of these. The result was a slight preference for the eco, etc wines, but no willingness to pay 35% more for them. Perhaps there were too few Millennials amongst the participants!