The SW Roundup: On Austrian natural wine, the human side of responsible farming, sexist alcohol marketing, Cabernet Franc’s second chance, and more

By Hanna Halmari
Austria: A leader in natural wine

In Wine Enthusiast Aleks Zecevic takes us to Austria, where he explores the country’s natural wine movement. Despite lacking a legal definition, natural wine is widely accepted as “organic and biodynamic wines made in a minimalist style.” Zecevic dives into Austria’s “long history of environmental consciousness.” Not only was the biodynamic approach to agriculture founded by Austrian philosopher Dr. Rudolf Steiner, but the country is also host to one of the first biodynamic wineries in the world. Read more here.

The human side of sustainable wine

Writing for Wine + Peace, Katy Severson points out how the term ‘responsible farming’ tends to lack sufficient emphasis on the human side of things. As an “industry founded on slave labor,” the wine industry today remains heavily dependent on migrant workers and labour issues are still rife. Severson discusses the challenges vineyards and winemakers face in ensuring high labour standards throughout the wine value chain, including the issues of rising costs and consumer prices associated with fair labor. Read more here

Gender stereotypes in alcohol marketing

In The San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley explores the problematic world of mass-market alcohol advertising. Despite the efforts of some alcohol companies to “break away from the binary” of “[m]en drink beer and whiskey; women drink sweet wine and pink drinks,” many adverts remain sexist. She points out how even though ‘brosé’ and fruit-flavoured hard seltzers are now regarded as  “‘acceptable’ drinks for men,” the “women drinking beer and whiskey…are still often fetishized in their popular-culture representations.”

California wineries forced to enter peak wildfire season uninsured

In another article for The San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley discusses the challenging reality facing numerous uninsured wineries in California. With price premiums having increased by 300% or more, fire insurance is now “either impossible to get or exorbitantly expensive.” This means many wineries have no choice but to enter peak wildfire season uninsured, leaving them powerless with “very few ways to prepare for a worst-case wildfire scenario this year.” Read more here.

Is global warming Cabernet Franc’s key to a second chance?

Writing for Wine Searcher, Margaret Rand ponders the future of Cabernet Franc. Given “its susceptibility to prolific yields, grapevine diseases and rot,” winegrowers in Bordeaux have long favoured Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon instead. However, as temperatures increase and droughts become more commonplace, it has become evident that Merlot “is not well-adapted to cope” with the warmer climate. Consequently, many growers are turning towards Cabernet Franc given its ability to withstand extremely hot weather conditions. Can Cabernet Franc “[step] into Merlot’s shoes” and “is this a desirable vision for the future?”