What is organic wine?
New Zealand's first Organic Wine Week runs from 17 to 23 September, so we thought we would clarify what 'organic' means when it comes to wine...
So, what is organic wine?
The answers vary as widely as the confusion around the word ‘organic’, which, according to some people means everything from environmental awareness to nothing at all.
“It’s just a meaningless term, right?” said one hospitality professional in the capital last week.
Organic has a meaning but it’s not always easy to define for many of us because the word is so over used these days that there is a lot of confusion about exactly what that meaning is. This week is New Zealand’s first ever Organic Wine Week and it runs from 17 to 23 September – hopefully providing a clearer understanding of what organic means during these seven days.
To be called ‘organic’, a product – wine, food or plant – must be made from raw material that has had no man made sprays used during its growing process. This means no herbicides, no pesticides, no fungicides, no insecticides and no fertilisers.
It’s more easily said than done.
Especially in a country like New Zealand where the words ‘land of the long white cloud’ really come into their own when you’re trying to grow food, which can be decimated by wet weather and fungal disease that comes with plentiful year-round rainfall.
The only way a wine can be called ‘organic’ is to have certification. This can take many forms but tends to be with BioGro NZ; an independent certification body.
It does not mean that organic wine tastes better but its production is better for the planet and for us. And of course, good winemakers are focussed on flavour and want to make wines that taste good too.
Over 10% of New Zealand wineries now hold organic certification, including many of the country’s best known winemakers.
Enter Organic Wine Week.
It’s an initiative of Organic Winegrowers New Zealand, which is collaborating with restaurants and retailers for a week of events that celebrate organic wines.
These events are focussed on consumers and those involved plan to highlight what organic wine is and why it is important.
“There has been a huge shift towards organic wine on our wine list which has naturally been brought about I think by a huge culture and societal shift taking place of 'quality over quantity’,” says Nick van Haarlem, beverage manager at Shepherd in Wellington, a restaurant that will host an Organic Wine Week event.
“The localised sense of place, the complexity and expressive nature of these wines, supported by the less harmful environmental impact were all huge factors in that transition. It is the way of the future.”
Regional Wines & Spirits marks Organic Wine Week on Wednesday 19 September from 4pm to 6.30pm with Jack Weaver from Churton Wines - he will open three certified organic wines, including 2017 Churton Sauvignon Blanc, 2015 Churton Pinot Noir and 2015 Churton Viognier.
Organic Wine Week events are online at www.organicwinenz.com/organic-wine-week