The SW Summary: On California’s organic ambitions, the booming low-alcohol wine market, the high price of glass, and more

By Hanna Halmari
California to eliminate high-risk pesticides by 2050

In Decanter Marisa Finetti reports on California’s new sustainable pest management roadmap. Recently announced by the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the plan sets out the state’s long-term “commitment to promoting ecosystem resilience” and “elimination of high-risk pesticides by 2050.” Finetti points out how organic viticulture is by no means new to the state, highlighting numerous wine producers who have been farming organically and biodynamically for decades now.

Finetti also emphasises the concept of ‘Slow Wine’, or wine produced in an environmentally conscious and transparent manner. The US Slow Wine Guide showcases such wineries in California, Washington, Oregon and New York and serves as a “guide for consumers who prioritise land stewardship.” Slow Wine Guide US editor Deborah Parker Wong explains how they operate as “advocates for producers who want to farm transparently…[listing] many organic and biodynamic farms that are not necessarily certified.” Read more here.

Low-alcohol wine boom

In The San Francisco Chronicle Esther Mobley turns her attention to ‘light wine.’ Largely driven by health and wellness trends, the low-alcohol wine market is booming and the sector is projected to grow by 10% from 2022 to 2026. However, as Mobley points out, low-alcohol wine is far from natural. Light wine is often treated with “harsh, industrial techniques” and is “at best…inoffensive and bland, like watered-down wine.”

The main challenge in making low-alcohol wine is indeed the taste, as alcohol “plays a much more important role in the character of a wine than simply providing an intoxicant.” It contributes to body and mouthfeel and many low-alcohol winemakers are experimenting extensively to achieve “satisfactory taste and texture.” Read more here.

Challenging the myths about organic

The Genetic Literacy Project shares an opinion piece by Henry Miller in which he challenges the myths around organic. Consumers around the world pay premium prices for products labelled ‘organic’ in the belief that they are safer, more nutritious, and more sustainable than ‘conventionally farmed’ products. Miller argues that this is not the case, contending that “the organic label is no more than a marketing tool.” He rebuts a number of widely-held beliefs about organic, such as the belief that “organic agriculture does not employ pesticides and other “synthetic substances” and discusses the extensive fraud and corruption in the organic food supply chain.” Read the full article here.

Glass remains expensive

The price of glass drastically increased as a result of rising energy prices driven by the war in Ukraine. However, the recent drop in energy prices has not been reflected in the price of glass, causing widespread resentment among customers. In Meininger’s Vincent Messmer explores why glass remains so expensive and scarce.

According to Peter Rotthaus, managing director at the Federal Association of German Wineries, “on the one hand, bottlers and retailers are hoarding glass in order to be able to deliver or bottle at a time when supply chains are unstable; on the other hand, expectations of further price increases are still not off the table.” Messmer notes that whether or when overall prices will fall again remains unclear. Read the article here.

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About the author

Hanna Halmari

Hanna Halmari is the editor at Sustainable Wine and the head of conferences at Innovation Forum. Hanna specialises in sustainability research and events across various industries. She holds an MSc in international development from Kings’s College London, where she developed a strong interest in political economy and post-communist transformation. Hanna speaks Finnish, Bulgarian and English. In her spare time she is a dedicated Radio Lollipop volunteer at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, enjoys travelling, and tasting new wines.