Sustainable wines an economic bright spot

Saturday, 3. March 2018 - 16:00

The growth in “responsible products” is explosive, with companies reporting single and double digit growth in otherwise flat markets, according to studies presented at Vinisud in mid February.

“We’re seeing the same impact in wine as in food,” said Elisabeth Laville of France’s Utopies agency, who presented the results of consumer research. She spoke through a translator. “We are looking at three major trends.” The first, she said, was health, because consumers believe that if products are harmful for the environment, they will be a problem for health as well. The second trend is a move toward buying locally, while the third trend is towards greater use of certifications. “People are basing their choices on labels and certifications. If you use a label that no one else uses, it won’t be as credible.”

Paris-based Utopies is a research and consulting agency that focuses on sustainability and corporate social responsibility and the information presented at Vinisud was the result of a recent international study.

“This trends towards the growth of responsible products is found first and foremost in France,” Laville continued. “Organic wine has a €1.2bn turnover in France. Ninety-nine percent of the organic wine produced in France is consumed in France.” She noted that nine percent of all vineyards in France are organic, with 293,000 ha of organic vineyards in Europe as a whole; 90 percent of organic vineyards are in Europe. “Why are consumers so interested in organic wine? The first reason is environmental friendliness and health. The second criteria is curiosity. The third is that there is a fairer and more equitable production process.”

Laville said that the category of sustainable wines included biodynamic, natural, vegan, fair trade and ‘reasoned’ agriculture.

She said the social trends towards transparency and greater use of social networks was putting pressure on producers to show that what they do is good for not just consumers, but also the environment and workers.

Laville noted that in a number of industries, producers no longer give consumers a choice between sustainable and non-sustainable products. “Starbucks is taking away consumer choice – they just use Fair Trade coffee. The market is being transformed.”

Other trends

Defining terroir has become an important tool for wine producers, as it allows them a way to differentiate themselves in the market. “Sonoma became the first 100 percent sustainable wine region. Becoming more communicative and talking about what they do means they have a good story to tell.”

Another trend was what Laville termed “vegan mania”. “It’s not the market we expected it to be – it’s going quite far,” she said. “Again, we see a series of areas and appellations working on vegan products.”

Social responsibility was becoming more prominent, with the emergence of wineries to whom good social practices are as important as good winemaking. Then there are “100% positive impact” wines, where the wine goes beyond sustainability, to have a positive environmental impact, rather than a neutral one. Responsible wine tourism was also a growth area, as it what Laville termed “retro innovation – trends in finding ancestral practices.”

Finally, she said, “responsible wines are no longer a micro niche, now that supermarkets and hypermarkets are on board.”

The research was presented at Vinisud 2018 in Montpellier, which this year had a strong focus on sustainability and ethically accountable initiatives.

In 2019, Vinisud will join forces with VinoVision Paris from 10 to 12 February at the Porte de Versaille exhibition centre, thus joining north and south of France together.
Felicity Carter