Bordeaux converting to organic on a massive scale

Tuesday April 06 2021 by Vitisphere

 “The trend towards organic conversion is based on the social awareness of our members”, adds Philippe Cazaux. “The trend towards organic conversion is based on the social awareness of our members”, adds Philippe Cazaux. - Photo credit : Alexandre Abellan (Vitisphere)

Although no precise figures are as yet available, the wave of conversions to organic in the vineyards of Bordeaux is undoubtedly growing: “People are talking about 300 conversions to organic this year”, says Patrick Vasseur, vice-president of the Gironde Chamber of Agriculture. It's quite simple, “everyone is switching over” sums up winegrower Philippe Carrille, whose 23-hectare Château Poupille in Castillon Côte de Bordeaux has been certified since 2008.

This influx of new converts, “can only be cause for rejoicing”, stresses Gwénaëlle le Guillou, director of the New Aquitaine organic wine producers’ organisation (SVBNA). Pointing out that Bordeaux had been “lagging behind” until then (with 11% of acreage committed to organic in 2019, compared with a national average of 14%), she emphasised that the “high conversion rate seems to meet equally high demand from the Bordeaux trade”.

There are currently significant price differences between organic and conventional, but this will not last. Well-deserved added value will remain, though, due to the technical commitments and the risk incurred by the supply side”, explains Philippe Cazaux, director of the co-operative group Bordeaux Families (formerly Union de Guyenne). This year, the group has 105 hectares certified organic and 551 hectares in the switch-over phase. “Initially, small areas entered the process, but then gradually the larger areas followed suit”, says Cazaux, who aims to convert 20% of acreage to organic within five years, with a longer term goal of 1,000 hectares by 2027.

Éric Hénaux, director of the Tutiac co-operative group, is taking a more measured approach and waiting for the current 620 hectares to be converted by 2022 before making any plans. “We will see how the market stabilises. The experience is like a lantern that we have hung on our backs and only lights up the road we have already travelled”, claims Hénaux, who remembers the imbalances in the Bordeaux bulk market in 2009: “A lot of organic wines came on-stream and prices fell. We have to be careful not to produce more volumes than we have the capacity to sell. The objective is not to sell on the spot market, but to focus on bottles and three-year contracts”.

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