How organic are we actually?

The EU has big goals. The From-Farm-To-Fork strategy (1) adopted in 2020 as part of the European green deal sets out key targets for achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

"Climate neutrality means striking a balance between carbon emissions and the uptake of carbon from the atmosphere into carbon sinks. To achieve net zero emissions, all greenhouse gas emissions globally must be offset by carbon sequestration." (2)

An important point here is a 25% share of organically cultivated vineyards. Germany, Austria and Switzerland are well on the way to achieving this. The organically cultivated vineyard area has more than doubled in percentage terms in Austria since 2010, in Germany since 2015 and in Switzerland since 2018 (as of 2021):

  • Germany - 12,500 ha, 12.1% of 103,400 ha (3)
  • Austria - 6,900 ha, 15.0% of 46,000 ha (4)
  • Switzerland - 2,244 ha, 16.6% of 13,500 ha (5)

For comparison, the global share of organic vineyard area was 6.2% in 2019. (6)

What exactly does organic actually mean?

Organic viticulture aims to create or maintain a balanced ecosystem in the vineyard and promote organic diversity. Unlike cereals or other crops, where it is possible to change seeds cyclically (rotational farming), viticulture is a monoculture where sometimes wine is grown exclusively for centuries. Organic farms therefore use the opportunity to give the area a few years of rest after the age-related clearing of a vineyard, if this is possible from the winery's economic point of view.

As a matter of principle, organic farming does not use synthetic chemical pesticides, plant killers (herbicides) or artificial fertilisers. Instead, plant strengthening agents are used, baking powder, sulphur and copper are applied (against mildew) and biological fertilisers such as humus or compost are used.
For more organic diversity, various plants are planted between the rows, which, for example, bind nitrogen in the soil or increase biodiversity in the vineyard. (7)

If a farm wants to convert to organic farming, it must manage its vineyards organically for three years (three harvests). The wines produced during this period shall be labelled as in-conversion products. This is possible with all authorised grape varieties. Especially in the organic sector, fungus-resistant grape varieties (PIWIs) are increasingly found, which have a high resistance to fungal diseases and significantly reduce the use of pesticides.

What is the situation in Germany, Austria and Switzerland?

In Germany, organic viticulture has increased strongly in recent years. According to the German Wine Institute (DWI), the share of organically cultivated vineyards has increased fivefold between 2004 and 2021. With a current share of 12.1%, Germany is among the world's TOP 10. (3)

Organic viticulture is also gaining in importance in Austria. In 2021, 15.1% of the wine-growing area was already cultivated organically, and the trend is rising. In comparison, the share in 2010 was still 7.1 %. Most organic winegrowers are located in the Austrian Burgenland. (4)

Switzerland's organically farmed vineyards are growing steadily and amounted to around 2,244 ha in 2021. The share of organic areas in the total vineyard area was thus about 16.6% in 2021 and about 12.4% of the farms were certified organic. This means a doubling since 2018. 75% of the total area is located in Western Switzerland, Valais and Grisons show strong growth. (5)

How do we reach the EU target?

The question is not so easy to answer. Apart from the promotion of organic conversion and various advisory services offered by the country's own institutes, some efforts are needed both at the political level and in the marketing sector.

At the very least, the rising demand for organic wine should play into the cards for achieving the goal. According to a study on organic wine consumption(8), demand will more than double by 2028. The reasons for this, apart from the efforts of the individual state governments, are especially the increasing demand for organic and sustainable food. According to the study, the shift towards healthier lifestyles and the strengthening of social values will also boost sales significantly in the coming years. The global availability in the course of digitalisation and the provision of organic wine in all conceivable packaging (bottles, cans, etc.) also offer more comparability and choice for consumers.

The growth of the market can be attributed to the rapidly growing consumer preference for organic and sustainable food and beverages. Nowadays, people have changing lifestyles and social values, which is fuelling the demand for organic beverages such as organic wine. Digital technology, which enables them to access various products, has further boosted the demand for organic wine. Organic wine is available in many flavours and packaging; red wine, white wine and rosé wine, for example, are packaged in bottles and cans of different sizes, which has increased the number of options for consumers. In addition, the increasing number of initiatives by governments to promote sustainable agriculture has led to an increase in the production of organic wine. The greater availability of organic wine and awareness of the product benefits contribute significantly to the demand for organic wine.

In any case, both political and social efforts are needed to implement the measures. If we all do our part, it is quite realistic to achieve the goal of climate neutrality by 2050.

Source references (last accessed on February 15h, 2023):

(1) https://www.consilium.europa.eu/de/policies/from-farm-to-fork/

(2) https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/de/headlines/society/20190926STO62270/was-versteht-man-unter-klimaneutralitat#:~:text=Climate-neutrality%C3%A4t%20means%2C%20a%20balance%20between,worldwide%20being%20balanced%20by%20carbon%20sequestration.

(3) https://www.deutscheweine.de/wissen/weinbau-weinbereitung/oekologischer-anbau/

(4) https://gruenerbericht.at/cm4/jdownload/download/2-gr-bericht-terreich/2398-gb2022

(5) https://www.bioaktuell.ch/fileadmin/documents/ba/Markt/Wein/Marktspiegel_Bio_Wein_Mai_2022_NEU.pdf

(6) https://www.oiv.int/public/medias/8514/en-focus-the-world-organic-vineyard.pdf

(7) https://www.kontrollgesellschaft.de/fileadmin/Dokumente/QMD_Dokumente/QMD_4__Merkblaetter_Betrieb/QMD_4_12_Hinweise_zum_oekol._Weinbau.pdf

(8) https://www.theinsightpartners.com/reports/organic-wine-market

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