Organic wine is much more than a small trend these days…
It’s becoming a real force in the global wine industry. Sales of organic wines have consistently been on the rise for over a decade. More consumers than ever before are using their wallets to show wine producers that they want natural wines that are more representative of the terroir that produced the grapes.
And producers are listening.
As the demand for organic wines grows, so too do the number of wine companies making these more natural wines.
And leading the charge is the Italian wine industry!
While other countries have been slow to adapt to the rising demand for organic, the Italian industry saw the trend as more than a passing fad early on. Italian producers recognised that those who go organic do so because they believe in the idea of natural foods.
And frankly, many producers also saw going organic as an opportunity to reconnect with their land and produce wines that are more natural representations of the terroir.
In 2018, 16.6% of Italy’s vineyards were organic.
That accounted for over 25% of organic vineyards in the entire world.
And the numbers keep growing.
As time goes on, more Italian vineyards are converting to organic processes. And that means more high-quality organic Italian wines are reaching the market.
In this article, we take a closer look at why so many Italian producers have changed how to make wines.
The Sales Possibilities
Of course, the major reason that any company might introduce widescale change is that doing so presents them with an opportunity to make more sales.
That is at least part of the motivation for so many Italian producers going organic.
We mentioned earlier that we’ve seen a growing number of people adopt organic lifestyles over the last decade. And as consumers become more educated about what goes into their food, it’s likely that more people will make the switch sooner or later.
This creates a sizeable niche of people who may love wine but don’t feel confident in drinking it because of the chemicals used in its production.
By going organic, Italian producers have the opportunity to appeal to these consumers so they can make more sales. And better yet, going organic is something that many of these producers can do over time.
For example, a producer may own 10 vineyards.
Implementing organic growing processes in two of those vineyards allows them to produce wines to serve the ever-growing natural niche.
And the other 8 vineyards can still be dedicated to producing non-organic wines until such a time comes that the producer feels it needs to make a change with them.
The Sustainability Conundrum
We don’t want to make it seem like the Italian shift to organic was purely profit-driven. While that is one aspect of it, there’s another that many producers will hold up as more important:
For decades, wine producers have used chemical fertilisers, pesticides, and other man-made solutions to solve agricultural problems. And while these certainly have the intended short-term effect of keeping plants safe so they can be harvested and used to produce wine, the long-term ramifications are something that we’re only recently starting to see come into effect.
For the land, the use of these chemicals alters soil composition.
When it’s done too much, the terroir may start to lose some of the individual characteristics that make the wine grown using it so special. The loss of these unique aspects of the wine would be a huge blow to producers who take great pride in their land and the role it plays in their production.
However, we also have to think about how these man-made solutions affect the natural order.
Chemicals that make their way into the soil or water have an effect on the wider ecosystem. Plant compositions change and animals of all types are affected by the use of these chemicals.
In making the switch to organic, many producers are finding healthier ways to grow their grapes that will allow their land to stay stronger and produce grapes that are more representative of it.
Stepping Back into Tradition
Another important issue to bring up with the move towards organic is how it brings producers closer to the traditions that the Italian wine industry has held so closely for centuries.
Anybody who visits an Italian winemaker’s website, regardless of the specific producer, will usually see some mention of having respect for the traditions of the land and those who came before. The history of the industry, which stretches back for thousands of years, is something that Italian producers take great pride in.
Of course, the chemical solutions that many use today when growing their grapes are fairly recent inventions.
Some who have adopted the organic growing style may do so because it brings them closer to the natural farming methods that were used hundreds of years ago. By forsaking man-made solutions, they bring a sense of tradition back to their wines that some might argue has been lost.
The Final Word
We are far from being in a place where organic wine production is the dominant form of production in Italy.
As we mentioned, fewer than 20% of Italian vineyards use organic growing methods. And there is still some debate about the effects that these methods have on the quality of the wines produced. Some see them as a hindrance whether others believe organic methods allow for earthier notes to shine through.
What is certain is that Italy has taken to organic production faster, and in higher volume, than any other country. Between 2013 and 2018, the amount of land dedicated to organic wine growth increased by 53%.
And that growth is ongoing.
What this means is that those who wish to try organic wines should look to Italy as the trailblazer. The Italian wine industry has been creating organic wines longer and has dedicated enormous resources to this niche.
If you need proof, just check out the Xtrawine catalogue to see our collection of organic Italian wines!