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France to become leading consumer of organic wine

France is set to become the world’s leading consumer of organic wine by 2021, having doubled its consumption since 2013, a new study suggests.

In the next two years, France is set to overtake Germany as the world’s highest consumer, as consumption levels are expected to have doubled since 2013, according to a new study by British alcohol intelligence and data institute the IWSR, which follows the alcohol market in 157 countries.

By 2023, consumption in France will represent as much as 20% of the global market, the study found, putting it ahead of current leader Germany, and next-largest consumers, the UK, and the United States.

In 2019, the rankings showed Germany on top, followed by France, the UK, Italy, and the US.

The figures suggest that organic wine consumption is growing, even as global consumption of “normal” wine is experiencing a downturn.

The study for interprofessional organic wine association SudVinBio (Languedoc) comes as France prepares to hold the "Millésime Bio" organic wine salon show in Montpellier, on January 27 and 29, 2020.

Organic wine production in France is also on the rise, the IWSR said, from 165 million bottles in 2013, to 361 million in 2018: a rise of 119%. By 2023, that figure is expected to have risen further, to 613 million.


Rise in natural wine too

Natural wine production is also growing in France, albeit more slowly, figures show.

Natural wine has been called “going further than organic” and described by US magazine Eating Well as the “cleanest wine option”.

It is often explained as wine that is made with as few interventions or additions as possible - including no synthetic or even organic treatments, fertilisers, or chemicals; no oak character from barrels, no filtering, and no added sulfites (sulfur dioxide, sometimes added to other wine to increase its shelf life).

This is in contrast to organic wine, which is made and harvested with organic-certified grapes, but can sometimes include certain non-synthetic treatments and chemicals at certain stages of the process, depending on the producer.

Some organic producers in Europe may also add small amounts of sulfites (less than 100 parts per million (ppm) for reds, and 150 ppm for whites) to increase the shelf life of organic wine.

Natural wine producer Gilles Contrepois, from the Aude, began making natural wine in 2004, and believes it is “clear” that enthusiasm for natural wine is growing - although currently, the natural wine market is small, and represents 1% of the entire wine production in France.

Mr Contrepois told local news source France 3: “People want to go further than organic, especially young consumers. There is clearly a craze for natural wine. We hear of ‘organic bashing’ more and more. Organic isn’t enough, because people know that there are still sulfites in the wine.

“Consumers, especially young people, want to go further. I am convinced that we are really going to change the world of wine consumption, to go further into more interesting products, rather than boring wines without any surprises.”

This month, Mr Contrepois will participate - along with 17 other local natural wine producers - in the second annual edition of Durban Corbières, a salon of natural wine, in the hautes Corbières.

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