Thursday, January 31, 2019

At the Press Conference: Unified's State of the Industry Panel Sees "Continued Growth" of the $1.4 Billion Organic Sector

L to R: Mike Veseth, Danny Brager, Melissa Lange, Jeff Bitter, and Glenn Proctor 
While organic vineyard acreage is expected to surge by nearly 6,000 acres in this year, it barely got a nod from speakers on the podium at the industry's annual State of the Industry panel session, a popular gathering that is part of Unified Wine Grape Symposium in Sacramento this week, attended by an estimated 14,000 participants.

On the podium, Glenn Proctor of The Ciatti Company mentioned organic bulk wine sales were up in Italy and in Spain, but there was no mention of organics in the U.S., which the picture is dramatically different, experts said at the press conference after the public event.

The organic sector's revenues (2 percent of U.S. off premise sales) are growing at 10 percent annually, according to Nielsen figures (from June 2017 to 2018). Two percent of California's vineyards are certified organic, and if the wine industry overall is valued at $70 billion (according to bw166 estimated from tax receipts data), the organic sector's net worth - at 2 percent of $70 billion - would be $1.4 billion annually (including both domestic and imported wines).

At the press conference after the session, speakers briefly touched on their perceptions of this market.

"We will continue to see growth in that segment," said Danny Brager, SVP of Alcohol Beverages for Nielsen, which collects the bulk of available wine industry scan data on sales revenue and volume. "I don't have the exact numbers, but it's certainly growing."

Looking to softer data culled from social media sources, Brager said, "at the messaging level, I think there's a receptive audience. In social media conversations, younger people - or people when they're talking about health stuff - the other topic that comes up is about the environment and sustainability. Organic pops up pretty heavily in terms of those conversations, which are largely younger people."

Mike Veseth, wine economist, said he was watching Shaw Organic, Bronco's new label, which launched in 2018. "They are making an effort to produce about a four or five dollar wine in Trader Joe's...a Trader Joe's buyer is likely to be interested in the organic designation. I'm keeping an eye on that."

Jeff Bitter of Allied Grape Growers said growth is moderate in terms of grape buying for those already in the organic sector. "We see the same organic buyers in the marketplace and we see moderate growth within those same groups of people. I don't have a lot of experience with new entrants coming into the market to buy a lot of grapes that for an organic program."

"I think some of the growth is either the big guys that already exist - the Fetzer's [Bonterra's] of the world, Winery Exchange [WX, whose brand Daily Red, is also sold at Trader Joe's] - people that are kind of have these brands that are already established.

"Franzia is probably going to expand internally, but in terms of new entrants into the market, I don't get a whole lot of buyers call me looking for organic grapes that are not currently in that business."

Currently Bonterra produces about 500,000 cases of "Made with Organic Grapes" wine, making it the top selling wine in that category according to Nielsen data. However Nielsen does not include Costco or Trader Joe's sales nor sales in most natural food stores throughout the country.

While Bonterra dominates U.S. sales in this category, with a 25 percent market share, seven of the top ten bestselling wines in the Made with Organic Grapes category are from foreign producers.

Frey Vineyards sales on revenue growth

Nielsen data says that "Made with Organic Grape" wines are 80% of the wines sold with organic labeling in the U.S.; the remaining 20 percent is split between the other two categories: "USDA Organic" or "Ingredients: Organic Grapes."

But no added sulfite wine producers' "USDA Organic" wines are often sold in Costco and natural foods stores not covered by Nielsen's scans.

No added sulfite wine producers at the Organic Growers Summit said sales are increasing more than 10 percent a year. Frey Vineyards' production was 270,000 cases, according to Katrina Frey, who spoke at the December summit in Monterey. Sales of Our Daily Red were up as well.

Featured in Costco in Nevada and California, Frey says the winery can't keep up with demand and has recently started importing organic grapes from Argentina. "We don't have enough wine to fill all the potential Costco markets, but with our new winery (which will be completed in May 2019), we are looking at approaching a few other regions now."

Argentina's Domaine Bousquet, which makes a line of more than 10 "Made with Organic Grapes" wines also reports that its U.S. sales are also up 10% a year.

For more industry coverage of this market sector, sign up for free Organic Wine News Briefs or subscribe to premium content at Organic Wine Insider.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Organically Grown Chardonnays Featured at Unified Wine Grape Symposium Panel

Those attending the Chardonnay panel at Unified Wine Grape Symposium blind tasted six Chardonnays
ranging from UK bubbles to Chablis to natural wine to Kendall Jackson's $16 Chardonnay at a panel session
From left to right, Virginia Philip (The Breakers), Jason Lett (Eyrie), Shaunt Oungoulian (Les Lunes), Greg Brewer (Diatom), Gary Fisch (Gary's Wine, NJ), and Ray Isle (Food and Wine).
Moderator Ray Isle, editor of Food and Wine magazine, injected humor and variety into a 90 minute exploration of the many faces of Chardonnay.

The audience first blind tasted the wines before the session began.

The big reveal brought many surprises - wines that were not among the usual suspects.

 Two of the six wines tasted were from organic vines - Jason Lett's Eyrie Vineyards Estate Chardonnay and Les Lunes' Barra Vineyard Chardonnay (140 cases, no added sulfites), a natural wine.

Note: For in-depth coverage, see Organic Wine Insider's coverage in the new Feb. issue.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Rosé Revealed: Organic Rosé Winemakers Speak at Unified Wine Grape Symposium Panel

The Rosé Revealed panelists presented details about their approach to making rosé. Organically grown rosés featured include Dianthus from Tablas Creek (left), Quivira Vineyards' rosé (center left), and DeLoach Vineyard's Estate rose of Pinot Noir (center right).
Nathalie Longefay of Provence shakes hands with panel moderator; 80% of her Provencale
clients are organic
From left to right, Brian Maloney of DeLoach Vineyards, Hugh Chappelle of Quivira Vineyards,
Chelsea Franchi, assistant winemaker, Tablas Creek; Jason Haas, Partner and General Manager, Tablas Creek
Nathalie Longefay of Cabinet d'Agronomie Provencale
Note: Subscribe to Organic Wine Insider for in depth coverage of the event and the winemaking presentations. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

EcoFarm Celebrates Organically Grown Wines in Conference Tasting

Thursday night's celebration of organically grown wines at Ecofarm, held as Asilomar in Pacific Grove, brought cider and winemakers together for a grand tasting that included more than 30 producers. Here are a few of my top choices from the event:

Susan Feinbloom and George Davis  from Porter Creek were pouring the beautiful Pinot Noir that comes from their 17 acre estate in the Russian River Valley. George had the good fortune of buying land there early on and planting what are now some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in California. His son Alex Davis is the wine maker, and he and his helpers usually pour. In years of being a fan and an ardent buyer of their wines, I had never met George. So that was a pleasure!

Zoubeida and Remi Zajac's Powicana Farms is among my newest favorites, since I only found them in 2018, but news of their incredible Petite Sirah had gotten around to me earlier when the couple won a double gold for their reserve Petite Sirah in the 2017 Mendocino Wine Competition.

Dan Berger was inspired to write about their 2015 wine, a rarity because it's seldom that a wine critic ventures into writing about wines from Redwood Valley. The area is the organic heartland, with more than 25% of the acres certified organic - a higher percentage than any other appellation. Much of the area was originally planted by Italian families; today the Barra's and the Frey's are the biggest growers and vintners.

The Zajac's, who are French emigres, made their first wine in 2013 from the 10 acre vineyard they purchased, converting it to Biodynamic certification in 2015 after they settled here. They dry farm and practice no till in the vineyard.  Powicana's wines - made with ambient (or native) yeasts from grapes they grow themselves - are gems that truly reflect the red clay terroir.

They make Petite Sirah five ways - as a rose, a sparkling rose pet nat, a still red wine, a reserve still wine and a port. Word got around - that sparkling pink was the wine of the night!

Another fine winery whose lovely wines are too often under the radar is Manzanita Manor, a project of Jutta Thoerner and Cynthia Douglas, who mostly raise organic walnuts on 100 acres of land. They also lease 30 acres of public land in San Luis Obispo County, growing wine grapes on 5 acres.

From the traditional Portuguese varities they planted there, they make a port style wine that is the only no added sulfite port in the U.S. It's also the only all organic port as well, fortified with organic brandy.

The two sell walnuts, too - including both their raw organic walnuts and their chocolate covered organic walnuts, another hit. (The chocolate is organic and fair trade, to boot).

For those who are crazy about walnuts, their online store sells sprouted walnuts, walnut flour, walnut oil, walnut butter and a wide variety of flavored walnuts.

They recommend pairing the chocolate walnuts with the port. There was standing room only at their stand when I visited at the tasting, with people only too delighted to try the combo.


Other wineries with wines from certified organic vines pouring at the event included:

Made with Organic Grapes (bottle labeled)
• Bonterra Vineyards
• Chance Creek Vineyards
• Preston Farm & Winery (Biodynamic)

No Added Sulfite Wines (bottle labeled)
• Frey Vineyards
• La Rocca Vineyards

Ingredients; Organic Grapes
• Frog’s Leap Winery
• Robert Sinskey Vineyards (bottle labeled)

Wineries that have some organically grown wines (but not all of their wines are organically grown); no bottle labeling
• Raymond Vineyards & DeLoach Estate (Biodynamic) 
• Storrs Winery & Vineyards (certified organic in the estate vineyard in 2018)
• Winery Sixteen 600 (negociant)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

French TV Explores Glyphosate Debate: See a Clip Here

Vallejo's Dewayne Johnson, the first plaintiff to successfully sue Monsanto for cancer related to Roundup use, is featured in this brief excerpt from the two hour French TV documentary that aired last night in France.


 See more (38 min. excerpt) from the whole documentary online here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Your Weekly Dose of Glyphosate News: Reuter's News Source Faked, German Regulators' Possible Plagiarism, A Professor's Exposé, a French Court's Ban and a Prime Time Debate

France 2 will air a major documentary about the pros and cons of glyphosate Thursday night
It's been an action packed week in the Dept. of News About Glyphosate with five major developments:

1. Was a Reuter's News reporter reporting on the facts? or acting as a puppet promoting Monsanto's point of view? Litigators find new evidence of possible deception and questionable journalistic ethics.

2. Did EU regulators plagiarize Monsanto documents in reviewing the health risks of glyphosate based herbicides? EU members of Parliament say yes, after examining key documents from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)

3. In a parallel universe in the U.S. how did IARC find glyphosate to be a probable carcinogen while the EPA did not? One professor's analysis boils down to the data each body considered. With the EPA, Monsanto presented only data from private industry studies; IARC's team of experts looked only at studies that meet peer reviewed scientific journal standards.

4. A French court found that French environmental protections failed to be enforced in the matter of the most widely used weedkiller and banned its use in France effective immediately.

5. France 2 will air controversial documentary on the pros and cons of glyphosate, sparking national debate.


Lawyers combing through Bayer and Monsanto documents for pending litigation have found new clues that Reuters' top reporter on glyphosate may have been less than honest about her sources when she wrote about Monsanto's herbicides.
Image result for kate kelland reuters
Kate Kelland, Reuters

The current court cases pending against Bayer by plaintiffs (who claim that Monsanto's glyphosate based herbicides caused them to get cancer) have turned up evidence that revises the narrative a Reuters News reporter, Kate Kelland, published earlier, suggesting that the journalist may have promoted a biased view supporting Monsanto's talking points.

Reviewing new material in the matter, plaintiff's attorneys say that court documents do not support an earlier claim by Reuters reporter Kate Kelland that evidence in her reporting was based on court documents. Rather, the lawyers say, Kelland relied upon internal documents promoting Monsanto's point of view - documents that are not in the public record.

For more on this story, see U.S. Right To Know's coverage here.


Did European regulators perform their analysis of glyphosate based formulations in a pro-active manner? Or did they regurgitate Monsanto's point of view?

See the story in The Guardian for more coverage.


Have you wondered why IARC and the EPA could come to such different conclusions about the health risks of glyphosate? A new analysis of the data sources presented says the devil's in the data presented - and omitted.

Fellow scientists point out that IARC is an independent body of scientists with no regulatory power while both EFSA and the EPA are regulators, subject to political pressure.

According to the Guardian, U.S. pesticide expert Charles Benbrook found that:
"EPA regulators used unpublished industry reports in 63% of the studies they evaluated, whereas the IARC relied solely on publicly available literature. 
"Almost three-quarters of the peer-reviewed papers looked at by IARC found evidence of genotoxicity in glyphosate, compared with just 1% of the industry analyses, according to the study published in Environmental Sciences Europe."

See Benbrook's full analysis here.


Claiming that French environmental officials failed to enforce health and safety protections against glyphosate adequately, a French court in Lyon banned the agricultural chemical.

For more on this story, read France 2's coverage here.


France 2 will be airing a major television report on glyphosate Thursday, Jan. 17. For more on that story, click here.

French Court Bans Glyphosate Use in France

Image result for Court of Lyon france

PARIS (Reuters) - A French court canceled the license for one of Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkillers on Tuesday over safety concerns, placing an immediate ban on Roundup Pro 360 in the latest legal blow to the Bayer-owned business.

A court in Lyon in southeast France ruled that the approval granted by French environment agency ANSES in 2017 for Roundup Pro 360 had failed to take into account potential health risks.

“This is a great first, which must be repeated,” Corinne Lepage, a former French environment minister and member of environment association CRIIGEN that brought the court case, said of the ruling on Twitter.

Read the full story on the Reuters web site.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

My New (FREE) Industry News Blog Launches! Check Out Organic Wine News Briefs

Organic Wine News Briefs has now officially launched. This is my new blog for industry news.

It's the first wave of a broader initiative I'm launching called Organic Wine Insider, a newsletter for the wine industry that covers news about the organic sector of the wine industry.

This paid subscription newsletter - with fresh, original news content - will launch later this month, but the FREE news (culled from the internet) is available for subscription now.

Check both of them out here!