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Cost still a ‘barrier’ to organic in Chile, says Cono Sur winemaker

The winemaker for Concha y Toro-owned Chilean wine brand Cono Sur believes his country has perfect conditions for organic vineyards but that many producers are still perturbed by high costs.

Geese in an organic vineyard owned by Cono Sur. Image credit: Cono Sur

Aldolfo Hurtado, who’s Cono Sur label has promoted organic winemaking for more than a decade, told an audience at this week’s London Wine Fair that Chile’s climate makes the country a natural contender to be a leader in organic wine production.

However, to date, only just over 4,500 hectares of Chile’s vineyards are certified organic, out of a total planted area of around 128,500ha.

The problem, Hurtado argued, is that winemakers do not see enough of a consumer marketing opportunity to justify the short-term cost of switching to organic.

‘Costs are a big barrier for many producers,’ Hurtado told Decanter.com on the sidelines of his talk.

‘Being organic is 20 to 25% more expensive per hectare than conventional winemaking, but production will be down by 15 to 20% as well. So, organic winemaking could be seen as around 30% more expensive overall,’ he said.

But, Hurtado added that he feels more producers in Chile are moving towards an organic ethos in Chile, even if many have not yet applied for certification.

Some believe that the wine sector must get better at balancing short-term and long-term objectives.

‘It’s very difficult for society to take a long view,’ said Dave Koball, vineyard director at Concha y Toro-owned Fetzer in California’s Mendocino County, and who spoke about biodynamic winemaking at the seminar.

‘If the soil is healthy then you have a healthy vineyard, and that’s what we are trying to achieve.’

Written by Chris Mercer

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