FRANCE (Bordeaux ) - French vintagers, among them also some of the most well-known Châteaux were thinking during and after the Vinexpo about the future in times of the economic crisis and above all thought about how to minimize costs, guarantee quality and satisfy the consumers. After numerous discussions they found that a long-term solution can be found in an ongoing development in viniculture and marketing.
"For the next five years I expect a standard in viniculture that is newly defined" says Robert Joseph, a London-based author, winery owner in Bordeaux and internationally active in trade. He explains further: "The term sustainability in viniculture and in the wine production should not be confused with an organic or biologically-dynamic production, but is rather the same as the search for a standard of a balance between social, economic and ecologic costs, use and profitability".
There are currently a lot of discussions about this standard of sustainability in the French wine-growing regions. "Even if some producers that are already in need of help because of the economic crisis, survive this, they will have to get to terms with the coming profitability", experts claim. They also say: "....,that besides a decline in sales, due to a global economic weakness, producers also have to think about protecting themselves for new crises. This could be a natural disaster like rain or hail, germs could hit the vines, water supplies in general could be threatened and the impact of the climate change cannot be foreseen yet anyway".
"Too many of my colleagues think like that", says Robert Joseph and explains: "Vintagers have to learn or even better they have to realize that it is crucial for surviving that they take the future costs-matter into their own hands".
The Castell Groupe, worldwide the 3rd largest producer after Constellation Brands and Gallo, with seat in Blanquefort (north of Bordeaux) already took into consideration the issue sustainability and safeguarding the future. In its own filling plant in the Loire region a water-treatment and recycling system was installed for three million euro. "We did not have to install such a technically sophisticated and expensive system", explains Franck Crouzet, director of communication at the Castell Groupe and adds: "We fill 579 million bottles a year and thus need as much water as a city with a population of 60 000. With these dimensions we already have to brace ourselves for possible upcoming constraints."
All producers that now discuss the future standards know that a sustainable development also means more costs. Larry Stone, General Manager of Francis Ford Coppola's Rubicon Estate from the Californian Napa Valley, who was invited for a discussion with French producers says: "Well yeah, sustainability costs a little more. But you get these costs back, namely in terms of the health and upkeep of jobs. By the way, we go the same way in Nappa Valley. We call our initiatives -Napa Green-, with the goal of sustaining our growing regions and helping our vintagers to survive in the long run. The same works in the growing countries of the old world".
"The wine associations Val Val d'Orbieu, whose members cultivate more than 9000 hectares along the French Mediterranean coast, were the first union to actually work this -Green Wave-. At Val d'Orbieu, the most important point is doing least to the vines, reducing the amount of waste, using renewable energies and provident water supplies and diversities among employees. The worldwide economic crisis woke us up", says Michel Mathieu, director for the marketing at Val d´Orbieu and adds: "We thought about our future and we saw that we have to do this and that it makes sense to use sustainabiliy in the process". The association also presented itself with this new strategy at the Vinexpo. There, they were the only exhibitioner that had an ecologically designed stand with recyclable glass, wood and environmental friendly colors.
Already a lot more accustomed to a sustainable development is the Château Larose Trintaudon. The 225-hectares large property, outside of Bordeaux, was certified a sustainable total production already in 2004 as the first European winery. The winery is owned by the insurance master EGF-Allianz and was first represented with its wines at the Vinexpo this year.
"We wanted to see whether our wines attract people and whether importers also understand the importance of a sustainable production", says Bruno Pastre, general director at Château Larose Trintaudon in a telephone interview. "Our vision was worth it. An importer from Belgium already signed an order and another contract with an importer from Germany is almost signed".
Whether producers take care of the environment and/or the administrative costs, you can see already now that the pioneers of the sustainable developments are successful with their wines. If only the consumers also embark on this ship, there will be nothing to hold the "Green Wave" in viniculture back. (aw.yoopress / translator c.siegel)