02 December 2021 / Borbála Kalmár, on behalf of the Agricultural Marketing Centre Copy actual URL Facebook share Twitter share

Is organic wine the future?

The wine industry is becoming increasingly organic, just like most segments of the food industry: if a product is labelled organic, we tend to dig deeper into our pockets, because the conviction that we are doing something good for our health and the environment allows us to consume the product with a clear conscience.

 

The range of organic products offered by supermarkets is expanding, Scandinavian cuisine enjoys great popularity, and restaurants are embracing natural foods as well. See the chefs and the crew at Salt, a Budapest based restaurant awarded the Michelin star this year, who spend their down time out in the woods foraging for fruit to serve to their guests. Considering these trends, the question inevitably arises: will organic and natural wines be the focus of consumer demand in the future? And how much will all this cost the wineries and the consumers?

 

 

Naturally!

 

Jean-Julien Ricard, owner of Marlou Wine Bar, which opened shortly before the pandemic, came to Budapest from Paris: having worked with natural wines in the French capital, it was a no brainer for him to try doing the same here. He opened his wine bar in the centre of Budapest before the pandemic, with 50% Hungarian natural wines on offer. He has now managed to attract a regular clientele, and with 80% of his customers being Hungarian, his opinion is that the growing interest in natural wines in Hungary is undeniable. “The new generation is living according to a completely different set of values than those born in the 50s and 60s. They are much more willing to leave their comfort zones and are curious about what's new in the wine world.”

 


Marlou wine bar and store

 

 

“Organic is definitely a positive term among the environmentally conscious public, whether it's about food and drink or even the raw materials used in everyday objects,” says Ivett Vancsik, dipWSET, editor-in-chief of Vince Magazine. “Wines made using organically grown grapes communicate a closeness to nature, the value of which is undeniable. I think it's definitely a growing trend: an increasing number of winemakers are switching to organic farming on their land and obtaining the certification, which is a very strict accreditation.”

 

 

 

Wine and food in harmony

 

János Gervai was head sommelier at Michelin-starred restaurants Onyx and Stand for many years. He says that they have seen the emergence of consumers interested in organic products over time as well, although this is still a very small niche in Hungary. However, when they started adding more organic wines to their wine list, a completely different clientele started showing up – and they weren't the only ones to experience this. “I once had the pleasure of talking to Søren, the owner, wine purchaser and all-rounder of Geranium in Copenhagen, who described a similar experience. They've also gone organic, and the clientele has changed as a result. However, the new crowd weren’t willing to spend as much on a bottle of wine as you'd expect at a three Michelin-starred venue. So the restaurant ended up making a compromise by keeping the big names besides the organic wines on their menu, which attracted the suit-wearing crowd they were aiming for.”

 


János Gervai (Photo by Gergely Kaszás)

 

 

The rise of organic and natural wines is not only driven by marketing trends. When pairing wine with food, János Gervai always looks at the character of the food. “There are specific cases of harmony in food and wine pairing where a natural wine takes precedence; but the relevant culinary concept is always very important. For example, at Noma, also in Denmark, which serves foods like live crab, exclusively offers natural and organic wines. It is part of the concept. But you don't even have to go that far, just take a look at the wine list at Salt.” It is reasonable to conclude that wines will follow the trend in gastronomy: the more restaurants start moving towards natural foods, the more consumer demand for natural or organic wines will increase. And producers will cater to this demand.

 

 

 

Oh, that’s dear!

 

Pricing is a sensitive issue for organic products, and it often seems to be the case that the mere presence of an organic label means a product will fall into a higher price bracket. Ivett Vancsik agrees that in many cases the price of a trendy product reflects its popularity on the market, and János Gervai adds his own practical experience to this opinion. For more than a year now, the former sommelier has been focusing exclusively on his own winery (János Gervai's Winery) where he also strives to be organic. However, he cannot overlook the expenses: conventional farming is feasible at a fraction of the cost of organic farming, in terms of pest management and manpower. In other words, higher prices are justified in most cases, even when popularity is taken out of the equation, since the production costs of organic wines are much higher than those where grapes are treated with herbicides and fertilisers. “Switching to organic involves a lot of sacrifices,” adds Ivett Vancsik, “in my opinion, those who do it, do it out of conviction and commitment, and not due to marketing considerations.”

 


Photo by Gergely Kaszás

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Photo by Gergely Kaszás
Marlou wine bar and store
Photo by Gergely Kaszás

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