Saturday, February 3, 2018

Organic Update from France: Presentation from Millesime-Bio - Vive La Difference

The U.S. wine industry gathered last week in Sacramento for its largest trade show - Unified Wine & Grape Symposium - with 14,000 attendees, representing most of the wines sold on supermarket shelves in the U.S.

Just a few days later in France, 5,000 organic winemakers, distributors and wine buyers from the four corners of the earth gathered in Montpelier for their largest festival - Millesime-Bio.

Exhibit floor at Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, Sacramento
At the Unified show, the most anticipated event at the show is the State of the Industry panel, an all star, data download that features four speakers and lasts 2.5 hours, during which you dare not blink, as each slide is a telling moment in the year's story of wine and the industry outlook. (You can get an idea of the incredible depth of the information in the 2017 presentation from Danny Brager from Neilsen Data here.) Get a newspaper account of Brager's 2018 talk here.

Wine buyers at the Millesime-Bio show in Montpelier, France
Millesime-Bio, too, has a boatload of great presentations. I've taken a little time today to sift through some of them and pull some of the highlights. Thanks to the presenters for their great slides. They're well worth a gander, as they paint a portrait of the increasing market for organically grown wines in the EU and how this growing sector of wine producers are thinking about the market.

What's most striking is the contrast between the organic wine producers and market in the U.S. where virtually no attention is paid to these producers in industry gatherings. There was not a single slide on organics in the 2.5 hour span of the Unified morning session. You can compare that to how seriously the Millesime-Bio presenters take organic wine production and its growing economic influence in the EU. Viva la difference.

Most of the slides here are from the Agence Bio presentation, but I urge you to explore all the presentations from the conference.

Here is information about the growth of organic vineyards- which has tripled over the last 10 years in France. There are 10,000 hectares now (172,973 acres). (The U.S. has maybe - at most - 25,000 acres of organic vineyards). France now has more than 5,000 producers.

You may have wondered, where are most of the organic vineyards located in France? This chart shows you exactly which regions are into organic. As you can see the Rhone and Provence are very strong, as is Alsace (15% organic or Biodynamic) and other regions. Though Champagne has been talking a blue streak in the wine press about going green, the chart shows that few vines are organic in that region (less than 2%). Bordeaux is still moving very slowly (0-2%) compared to Napa (7% certified organic vines).

Markets are growing, too, as this slide shows. Since 2005, the trend is up, up, up. (But not in the U.S.) Note the variety of sales channels.

This next slide was good news, too. It says that in 2014, 50% of restaurants offered an organic wine, up from only 40% in 2011.

When a restaurant offers organic wines on its list, in general the restaurant has at least 5 different bottles on average. And each of these restaurants had, on average, 5 different organic wines on their wine lists.

Selling direct was more important for organic wine producers compared to organic food producers. (When will stores "get it"? Organic wines are often not even on the shelves here in the U.S. - just try finding one at Safeway - even in Berkeley)

Wine makes up 12% of the organic products in France.

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