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Bordeaux sees sharp growth in organic vineyards

There has been a strong rise in Bordeaux winemakers converting to organic as part of wider sustainability plans, says the region's wine council, as a new report estimates 6% of the world’s vineyards are now certified.

Bordeaux wineries have continued to embrace organic farming in their vineyards in ever greater numbers, according to data released this week by the regional wine council, the CIVB.

It said there was a 43% jump in the amount of Bordeaux vineyard land either certified organic or in conversion in 2020, to 19,952 hectares – citing figures from national body Agence Bio.

The CIVB also published data on a range of other sustainability initiatives and schemes being adopted by wineries. It said 75% of Bordeaux’s vineyard area had a ‘certified environmental approach’ in 2020, up from 55% in 2016.

It added that €400,000 of research funding was being spent annually to help cut pesticide use. France’s wine industry has previously faced criticism over pesticides, and the government is committed to reducing use across agriculture as part of its Ecophyto plan.

Organic and also biodynamic methods have been of growing interest to a number of Bordeaux estates in recent years, although not all producers believe in certification and there is debate about certain practices, while other producers have been pursuing some of the core principles for a long time.

Thomas Duroux, CEO of biodynamically-farmed Château Palmer in Margaux, said it was fantastic news that more producers were going organic and biodynamic in the region.

‘The path to organic or biodynamic farming is not an easy one, especially in Bordeaux with our Atlantic climate, but this is the way,’ he told Decanter via email.

He said that each estate had different challenges and, for this reason, ‘it may take time’. But, he added, ‘I am totally convinced that together we will be stronger and that together it will be easier to face difficulties.’

Commenting within the CIVB report, Luc Planty, estate manager at Château Guiraud in Sauternes, said, ‘It’s difficult to say categorically that organic wine has a better taste, but it is better at expressing the terroir of a vineyard.’ He added, ‘It is of course less harmful to the body and the planet.’

Figures from the CIVB came as a new global report estimated that 6.2% of the world’s vineyards were now certified organic.

There were around 454,000 hectares of certified organic vineyard globally in 2019, according to new report by the International Organisation for Vine and Wine (OIV).

It said this figure had been growing by 13% per year on average since 2005.

‘The rate of conversion of vineyards to organic production has increased considerably since the beginning of the 21st century,’ said the OIV.

Spain, France and Italy, already the largest wine-producing nations, accounted for around three-quarters of the world’s certified organic vineyards, it said.

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