Bordeaux’s organic wines
January 27, 2018

Bordeaux’s organic wines

How sustainable can a glass of Bordeaux be? The answer is: a lot more than you imagine! For several years now, efforts have been made to increase awareness about organic approaches among a majority of vineyards.

Even so, it is not easy to cover the entire area of this region, especially with the 6300 wine growers existing in the Bordeaux region where plots average an area of 17 hectares. The aim is to not only reach the large estates, but also family businesses where manual farming is still predominant.

An ambitious climate plan

It is, therefore, remarkable that 55 % of vineyards already embrace sustainable initiatives. But with their “2020 Plan”, the C.I.V.B. – Interprofessional Committee of Bordeaux Wine –  want to go even further. The target is to reduce CO2 emissions by 20%, as well as the consumption of fossil fuels and water, and increase the use of renewable energies by 20%. The committee’s final objective is that 100 % of the vineyards adopt sustainable methods.

According to Vins de Bordeaux spokesperson: “The purpose is for vine-growers to find a right balance between productivity and sustainability. One aspect can’t exclude the other. But it is rather quite the opposite, as adopting a more sustainable approach can even stimulate productivity”.

“A better knowledge and management of soils will allow vine-growers to know exactly where the more productive parcels are located and what is the optimal amount of fertiliser to use to maintain the soil in good condition.”

New technologies play an important role in this transition. Soil testing is employed more and more to highlight the topography of wineries. Drones also increasingly play a role in determining which plots get the most sun, through a technique called “heat mapping”. These techniques combined enable a more precise watering, fertilisation and spraying allowing increased efficiency, minimised waste and more sustainability.

From the AB label to “integrated viticulture”

Different certificates can be given to vineyards. The most famous is the AB label, green-coloured, which can only be used for products composed of at least 95% of ingredients coming from organic farming. Then, for biodynamic agriculture, you can find the famous Demeter label. Demeter Biodynamic Certification, established in 1928, was the first ecological label for organically produced foods and is used in over 50 countries to verify that biodynamic products meet international standards in production and processing. But it is not because a bottle is not labelled as “organic” that no effort has been made to make it sustainable. There are plenty of examples of “integrated viticulture” where chemical treatments are still given to the vines, but only if proven necessary to ensure productivity.

In other words, your favourite glass of Bordeaux probably hides a lot more sustainable viticulture than it might seem, and this will continue to be the case in the future. One more good reason to keep enjoying it!

Text by Tina Claeys, originally published in Smaak Magazine, Belgium


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