Could coronavirus herald a boost for organic wine?

PUBLISHED: 11:29 21 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:39 23 October 2020

Tenuta delle Terre Nero organic vineyard, Etna, Sicily. Picture credit: Eleonora Ambra

Tenuta delle Terre Nero organic vineyard, Etna, Sicily. Picture credit: Eleonora Ambra


Although wine sales to bars and restaurants have plummetted, Liz detects a growing trend for chemical-free earth-friendly tipples which don’t compromise on taste

Tenuta delle Terre Nero organic vineyard, Etna, Sicily. Picture Tenuta delle Terre Nero.Tenuta delle Terre Nero organic vineyard, Etna, Sicily. Picture Tenuta delle Terre Nero.

Coronavirus has upset the wine world. Not surprisingly, sales to restaurants, bars and pubs have plummeted. In some compensation, retail and on-line demands have soared, though not enough to equal the losses.

Knowledgeable forecasters anticipate it will take at least five years for world wide wine sales to return to 2019 levels.

But something good is coming out of all this: more people want to drink organic wine. That has been an ongoing trend, building annually by almost nine per cent since 2014, while the world’s total wine consumption has stayed almost steady.

And those same forecasters, from respected drinks analyst IWRS, believe Covid-19 will boost the proportion further, with organic wine’s share of the total market rising steeply, albeit from a tiny base.

“That’s driven by the health and wellness movement and the impact of choices on the environment and society at large,” Daniel Mettyear, head of the IWRS wine division, told a web seminar held recently by wine trade magazine Harpers.

“We’re seeing a laying bare of the fragility of our way of life.”

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Choosing wine produced without a cocktail of chemicals, with emphasis on protecting and improving soil quality and creating safe conditions in vineyard and cellar, increasingly makes sense.

As another of the Harpers debate speakers predicted: “People will be thinking of the cost of NOT buying organic.”

The UK is one of the top five organic wine-consuming nations, but has a long way to go to reach Sweden’s enthusiasm – there, some 22 per cent of all wine sold is organic (world-wide, the figure not yet three per cent).

Today, there is no need to compromise when buying organic wine – the time when taste was sacrificed to principle has long gone, at lower price levels as well as high. Search “organic wine” on the websites of sellers as diverse as Sainsbury’s or Berry Bros & Rudd, or go to specialists such as Vintage Roots, and you’ll be spoiled for choice, in both style and place of origin.

There are organic wine producers world wide, though Europe has led the way – in such less likely locations as Alsace and the Loire Valley, even damp England, as well as the dry plains of Castile or Etna’s lava-strewn slopes.

As sales increase, more growers will change. “It costs more at the beginning,” said Juan Pablo Murgia, head winemaker at organic Bodega Argento in Argentina (his new Artesano malbec is in Tesco, £10).

“But with time the health of the vineyard improves and it will produce more year by year – the opposite of what happens with non-organic vines.”

Pictured Tenuta delle Terre Nero organic vineyard, Etna, Sicily by Eleonora Ambra

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