Christmas markets are in full swing. Last weekend, I took some of my French organic wines to a Christmas fair at a local stately home. My French organic wines stall was located in the food hall but people didn’t necessarily expect to find an organic wine stall there so I ended up seeing a very diverse crowd over the course of the event rather than the people I meet at wine tasting parties or food festivals who have already shown an interest in wine. Most people are nice; some are really appreciative of what I give them to taste and sincere when they tell me that they hope my venture will be successful. Some don’t know what to make of my offers of free samples and sometimes walk away looking rather terrified. Some others are just rude. One of them grabbed a bottle that was in my cooler and just said: “I want to try this one”, as if this was some kind of entitlement. This was however not the worst moment. There are two things that upset me more.
- The usual downing my samples in one shot as if it was some kind of drinking game in the pub. I know that people should be able to enjoy wine as they wish but they were not taking the time to taste the wine, which is what the sample thing is essentially about!
- People who decide that they can loudly criticize a product, in this instance my French organic wine, without knowing anything about it.
In my opinion, the root of both problems is ignorance but the ignorance is far greater in problem number 2 and it annoyed me so much that I felt the need to write this blog “rant”.
So it’s a Saturday afternoon and two “yummy mummies” have taken their children to see Father Christmas and the reindeers and are now touring the Christmas fair. I clock that one of them is wearing a pair of Hobbs boots and the other carrying a Mulberry handbag, neither of which I can afford.
They glance at my stall and at the price list and then, without giving me a look one says to the other: “organic, yeah, that’s just an excuse to put the prices right up. What a rip off “and they both giggle…
An excuse?! “Organic “ is not an excuse, it’s a type of certification. It’s an expensive one too. As Isabelle Legeron explains in her book “Natural Wine” * , it is a far from perfect one. A lot of producers go far beyond what is required to achieve the certification but she concludes “ All in, however, certification is still useful-warts and all. It provides drinkers who may not know a grower’s work with a guarantee that they are what they profess to be”
All the wines I had on show were organic, a lot of them also biodynamic. All of the producers whether quite big or very small share a concern for the environment, for the quality of the air we breathe, and what we put in our plates and in our glasses. Something that, especially as a mother myself, I consider important. A lot of the French organic wines I had with me come from domains that are just small farms. Most have a manual harvest. Most produce wines that can only really be sold through small retailers like me because they do not have enough bottles to sell to big names in the wine distribution world ; they produce far less bottles per year than Mulberry makes handbags. There is such thing as an economy of scale that can very simply explain why the price of organic wine may seem higher than the price of “conventional wine”
Producing wines without relying on chemicals is hard graft as I keep trying to tell people who ask me if I make all these wine s myself. Here is what Patrice Beguet said when I interviewed him for my previous blogpost http://mimiswinetastings.co.uk/daily-life-of-an-organic-winemaker/ “ Organic farming is harder work, requires more equipment, involves a lot more manual labour, more risk-taking, more understanding about how diseases, plants and the soil function, and forces us to be more reactive to changes in the weather and the vines. We sometimes (nearly always) work at the weekend… But the price is evidently worth paying for us. “
For me as a wine buyer, the price of organic wine is more often than not well worth paying.
To find out more about natural wines (which encompass some but not all organic and biodynamic wines) read
It’s a really enlightening read and I hope a few Blossom-Hill-guzzling yummy mummies will get a copy in their Christmas stockings.