Red wine, it is believed, has many virtues, from antioxidants to its high levels of resveratrol to promoting weight-loss.
However, the virtues of wine can quickly be undone by harmful chemicals, pesticides and fungicides that are found in many varietals today. Unless a wine is certified organic and biodynamic, the consumer can be exposed unknowingly to these harmful synthetics which are being increasingly linked with diseases including cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Recently, however, consumers have begun to become increasingly aware of these risks and it appears that a new trend is emerging.
Organic and sustainable wine is growing rapidly in popularity today. To put it simply, consumers are increasingly concerned about what they are putting into their bodies. They are beginning to demand that products are natural and organic and for companies to specify what is in the product on the label. Women are clearly leading this mega-trend.
Seventeen years ago, I combined a passion for sustainability with a passion for wine and purchased Chateau Maris in Cru La Liviniere, Languedoc, France. We immediately converted the domain to bio-dynamic and organic farming methods.
We stopped applying synthetic chemicals and pesticides. We promoted natural biodiversity in the vineyards and sought to bring the soils back to life after years of over application of harmful and man-made synthetics. (curious as to cost implications here on production). We were very early adopters of biodynamic practices and clearly ahead of the curve, even for France. Our neighbors thought we were daft and certain to fail ¾ and we very nearly did. The vines struggled after the artificial support was removed. Vine vigor declined as did production. Our friends in Burgundy warned us that our vines would need time to regain their health but if we were patient and had a bit of luck, we would in time be rewarded with healthier, more resistant and stronger vines capable of lifting quality significantly. We would begin to see the results after seven to 10 years.
By 2005, our wines were consistently receiving ratings of ‘outstanding’ (93+ points) by the leading critics and we were being hailed as the ‘Biodynamic Apostles of the Languedoc’. Chateau Maris earned organic and biodynamic certification from Europe’s leading associations. We went on to construct the world’s first carbon negative winery, which is energy self-sufficient and completely biodegradable and absorbs and stores CO2 prompting The Wine Spectator Magazine to name Chateau Maris one of the top five wineries in the world confronting climate change head on.
Chemicals and sustainable practices in vineyards are now finally beginning to attract the interest of the Main Street consumer as well. In 2013, a study by French consumer magazine Que Choisir and Excell enology lab analyzed 92 wines in France. Every wine showed levels of chemicals, however reportedly below the levels considered unsafe…whatever that means. We believe that wines should be completely free of potentially harmful toxins. Just as people are demanding higher quality foods today, they should turn to the wine industry with this same demand so that they can reap the benefits of a healthful wine experience.
The transformation in consumer behavior is really encouraging. The trend of rejecting man-made synthetic chemical pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers is finally taking shape. Organic and biodynamic farming methods are proving that sustainable practices lead to greater product quality and improved health prospects and profitability. All this points to another record year in sales for Chateau Maris.
Kevin Parker is the Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Insight Capital Management (SICM), a New York-based, global investment management firm that combines a disciplined alpha-generating process with ESG principles. He is also the owner of Chateau Maris, Cru La Livieniere, an award-winning, certified organic and biodynamic winery in France and the founder of agri.capital gmbh which has grown to become the largest biogas and biomethane company in Europe.