Chile’s organic wine industry ambitious and growing

Chile aims to be the world’s number one producer of organic wine by the year 2020, according to the Wines of Chile’s strategic plan. This responsible and progressive goal reflects Wines of Chile’s commitment to caring for Chile’s precious ecosystem while continuing to produce impeccable wines from rich and healthy terroirs.

Many consumers throughout the globe increasingly support and prefer organic agriculture and evidence of environmental sustainability in food and wine production. Organic produce is grown entirely without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetic modification, or other artificial additives. This trend towards healthy, natural living and responsible farming has created a growing market for organics, and a perfect opportunity for Chile – with its expansive vineyards and wise farmers – to lead this sector of the wine industry.

Wine grapes are often grown organically, and wineries frequently include “Made from Organic Grapes” notes on wine labels. This statement does not indicate that a particular wine is entirely organic, however. In addition to using organic grapes, truly organic wine is created without artificial or chemical modifiers incorporated into any part of the winemaking process.

This is exceptional, as wine makers must typically add sulfite preservatives at various stages of harvesting, fermentation and bottling to ensure longevity and stability of the final product. Sulfites prevent oxidation as wine ages, allowing flavors to blend and mature over time, and creating the distinct experience of opening an old bottle of wine to taste its unique evolutionary characteristics.

While wine lovers crave such gastronomic excavations and adventures of the palate, young organic wines offer their own form of excitement for perceptive tasters.

Minimal intervention by organic grape growers and winemakers permits the wine to occur naturally through sustainable and adaptable farming, harmonious coexistence with the environment (including braving the whims of unexpected weather patterns and pests), gradual (rather than artificially expedited) fermentation, and eventual distribution of a pure and authentic product to consumers through ecologically and socially responsible packaging and retailing methods.

Free of the confusing influence of chemicals, organic wines are often considered by wine tasters to more directly convey their terroir origins, delicate savors of the fragile balance between sun, rain, and nutritious earth.

Mass production of organic wine is complicated, though, due to the added costs of manual labor required to manage weeds and harvesting without chemistry and excessive petroleum use, as well as increased vulnerability to insects, disease and weather. As a result, organic wines in Chile today are typically produced only by independent artisans or large, established wineries.

Several Wines of Chile associates currently make and sell organic wines, including Cono Sur, Miguel Torres, De Martino, Nativa, Viña Emiliana and Matetic Vineyards. However, in working towards the 2020 goal of leading sustainability in the wine industry, Wines of Chile has officially certified a number of wineries with the seal of Accredited Sustainable Wine of Chile.

Increased consumer demand for organic wine by health-conscious wine lovers will facilitate increased supply from Chilean exporters as organic farming costs decrease and sustainable agriculture practices become the norm rather than the exception.

By Gretchen Stahlman, written for Wines of Chile

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