Are consumers paying lip service or is it a paradigm shift? | New Brief out, #201

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Per Karlsson portrait Britt Karlsson portraitIs the consumer just paying lip service in the enthusiasm for environmentally friendly and sustainability? Or are we approaching a paradigm shift?

Temperature control is one of the most important technological improvements ever in the wine world. Other technologies have also in various ways improved the wines and simplified the production.

Robots are bottling and packing, drones are flying over the vineyards and detecting diseases. Hi-tech is now part of the wine industry.

Yet we are now at a new kind of break-point, it seems.

The fact that some winegrowers replace the oak barrels with amphorae, the stainless steel with concrete, favour wild yeast and reduce the sulphur means that wine enthusiasts get exciting wines to talk about, but that is not what it is about.

There is something much more revolutionary going on. We are about to abandon conventional agriculture. Despite all the talk about organic, sustainable and natural, 85-90% of all agricultural land is still farmed using chemical synthetic products. Products that have secured harvests and made the job easier for farmers for approximately 70 years.

Synthetic fertilizers helped to feed many mouths in the early 1900s. Pesticides rationalised agriculture after World War II. This was positive, many people thought then.

Now we think it is positive that there is a change towards more sustainable agriculture, which means that we abandon the synthetic products, partly or wholly. It is a tremendous change. And not something that everyone in the agricultural industry is necessarily happy about.

The EU has very recently set ambitious targets for reducing the use of pesticides in agriculture. The use of pesticides should be reduced by 50% and 25% of the total agricultural area should be cultivated organically by 2030. This is very ambitious given that today only 7.5% of the total agricultural area in the EU is organic. For vineyards, the figure is 13%, but vineyards represent only a few per cent of all agricultural land.

Will it succeed? Probably not.

It also does not mean that there is a simple and obvious solution that suits everyone. To think that the answer is as simple as “everyone should be organic” is far too simplistic. Perhaps what is most likely is that we will continue to see a mix of methods, but that we will nevertheless see a radical change towards things that are considered environmentally friendly and sustainable.

What happens when farmers/growers use fewer synthetic pesticides? In some cases, it will be more expensive and in many cases, it will mean extra work.

Removing weeds was a tiring process before there was chemical weed control. Now glyphosate, the active substance in many herbicides, is on the verge of being banned in France in 2022. Several wine regions in France and Italy have already banned it. If this is a decision based on facts and science is not something that everyone agrees on.

Sure, many vineyards have already stopped removing weeds and let the grass grow instead. But many still use herbicides, not least directly under the vines. It is time-consuming to remove the grass under the vines with the tractor. On steep slopes where you cannot drive a tractor, you have to remove the weeds by hand, with a pick. Some already do.

Perhaps the most important question is whether we wine consumers are prepared to pay extra, pay more for our wines to, for example, keep the beautiful vineyards of the Alps?

Or perhaps, more importantly, are we prepared to pay a little extra money for the wines so that the winery workers in South Africa – and in many other wine districts – can make a decent living?

Are we prepared to pay for the kind of products that we say we want?

A few other things to think about:

Monday Masterclass on organic wines

If you want to know more about organic, biodynamic and “natural” you can sign up for the online conference we will do on Monday. It is the English wine education organization WineEd that has asked us to make a presentation, a half-hour “Monday Masterclass”, of what this type of wine production is really about. On Monday June 1 at 2 PM English time. Book your seat at WineEd’s masterclass here.

If you want to know more, you can read our book on organic wines.

A few words about wine tours and the world

The world seems to be making progress, but slowly, in the fight against covid-19. Many countries are beginning to release restrictions. But it is very uncertain how fast it will go and how the development will be. We don’t really know anything about what the situation will be this fall.

Since the end of March, we have cancelled all our tours, all our spring tours. But what will happen in the autumn? No one can answer that question today.

At BKWine, we have a number of wine tours planned in the fall, as well as in the winter of 2021. Will they really happen? We do not know. It depends on the health situation in Europe and in the rest of the world. We probably won’t know more until well into the summer.

What we do know with great certainty, however, is that sooner or later the desire to travel will come back and that it will again be possible to visit wine regions and meet winemakers. Experience great meals and taste delicious wines. Travel through beautiful landscapes and lush vineyards. Many wineries have already begun to open up on a small scale.

And when you you feel the urge to travel again, what we also know for sure is that we will be there, BKWine Wine Tours, and we will continue to organize the world’s best wine tours. Just for you.

Keep us in mind when you want to travel to the world’s wine regions again! We really look forward to meeting you.

Until then, we will entertain you and your interest in wine with lots of texts and pictures and videos. So that you don’t forget.

You can, for example, connect with us on Instagram and on Facebook, with lots of travel pictures.

Britt & Per

PS: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief!



What’s on at BKWine Tours

  • Bordeaux, September 30 – October 4, 2020

For more information please contact us on email or on phone (we’re on French time), or go to our wine travel site on!

We also make custom designed wine tours – on-demand tours for you and a group of friends, for your company (maybe to scout new winegrowers?), for a special event… We can combine winery visits and wine touring with other activities: gastronomic workshops, visit to an oyster farm, truffles hunting, cheese making, and more. More info on the custom designed and bespoke BKWine wine tours and travel here!

Read our book(s)

We have written several wine books, nine at the last count. One of them has been translated to English; the others are (so far) only available in Swedish. This is the one that is available in English: Biodynamic, Organic and Natural Winemaking, Sustainable Viticulture and Viniculture

All our books are on wine, but on different subjects: wines of the Languedoc, wine growing and wine making, the wines of France, Tuscany, Bordeaux, Piedmont, Burgundy, Champagne. Several have won prestigeous prizes and awards. Read more on our wine books.

[box type=”alert” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]This is just the introduction to the latest issue of the Brief. Subscribe to the BKWine Brief and you will get the whole edition in your mailbox next month.[/box]

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