Europe's biodynamic wine-makers swim against the tide

Tue Jul 5, 2011 6:02am EDT
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By Marcel Michelson

BORDEAUX (Reuters Life!) - In the shadow of the big Vinexpo wine and spirits industry fair here last month, a group of international wine-makers gathered to promote wines that go against the mega-commercial trend to sell ever larger uniform quantities to big markets such as the United States or the growing markets of China and Russia.

Under the banner "Return to Terroir" several vintners presented their wines, made according to biodynamic growth rules and in small quantities, in the Bordeaux theater as a fringe event to the Vinexpo in big halls outside of the city.

Biodynamic wine was once the preserve of alternative lifestyle types, but increased consumer concern about genetically modified food and the use of chemicals in agriculture has made organic farming and its more specific cousin biodynamic agriculture a mainstream pre-occupation for consumers in Europe and elsewhere.

Consequently, a long queue of people waited in the hot Bordeaux sun to sample the wines and attend films and lectures.

"It is about abandoning the Malthusian race toward overproduction and going back to the roots. It is about respectful wine-making, about ethical wine-making, about linking man closer to nature again," said Jean-Michel Deiss of the Alsace region in an explanation of biodynamic wine-making.

But how does a biodynamic wine-maker survive financially with a smaller production.

"It is clear we provide wine to a certain elite," Deiss said.

Not that these wines need to be extremely expensive. Loire valley vintner Thierry Michon said he made wines for 40 to 50 euros ($57-$71) a bottle as well as wines for less than 10 euros. "It is like gastronomy, there are several levels."   Continued...