Thursday, May 11, 2006

BioD: Why should anyone care?

Why post about biodynamic [BioD] viticulture and winemaking anyway?
Does anyone care?
Should they?

The answer should be "Yes".

Jancis Robinson wrote
More French wineries go biodynamic [see link] at the start of February, and had this to say about BioD producers that she "...most respect[s] have adapted biodynamic methods to their own particular environment and are deeply embarrassed by some of the wilder claims associated with the theory." She then goes on to point out the increased prices of BioD produced wine - noting that the example vintner she uses [Gerard Gauby] has production costs of 8 times what he paid out before he went BioD. Are you prepared to pay 8 times what you're paying now, and have production cut to what, ~25% maybe, of what it is right now?
I know I'm not.

But in favor of more of the French adopting BioD it may make some economic sense: massive overproduction of wine right now is hampering the EU budget as it becomes a yearly mission to bail out producers by distilling that bulk excess into industrial alcohol. A reduction in amounts produced would alleviate some of that financial burden, and would reduce grower/producer economic stresses which are the primary cause of the recent riots in France.
I mean think about it - you only produce a quarter of what used to, but charge 8 times more to make up for production costs. With a little manipulation you could increase your profit at the same time...

I know problems with that scenario are numerous, but the first four on the top of my list are thus:
  1. wine will no longer be affordable to many who drink it now, and will fall back to the default image as a beverage of the wealthy elite, and will stiffle growth during a time when many producers are in need of increased consumer base
  2. consumers would have to see the resulting wines produced as being worth all that extra cabbage they shell out, which is doubtful, and might drive the already dropping number of EU consumers further down
  3. the EU would then have to rely further on its export market, while its' international share is currently declining as the New World wines are gaining favor - economically this would be virtual suicide as New World wines would be much less expensive and gain even more ground (small unknown producers would be hardest hit - provoking more riots)
  4. the BioD movement is based on it having benefits which are not available to organic producers, which evidence does not support to date (not that production costs for organic viticulture are not above those of conventional methods - which generally they are)
Strange, I don't see all that as possible - there are just too many assumptions which aren't likely to happen.

And look how these producers get coverage by Robinson - actually by nearly anyone writing about BioD: this is a small field right now, and the wineries which go BioD have an obvious economic reason to adopt it for the PR alone (not the production costs which are prohibitive to apply to the industry as a whole)...
...that's where this movement get most of it's payback - in increased marketing hype, and differentiating it's products from other producers.

Arguments can be made for increased environmental responsibility with BioD, but there are strong counter arguments which can also be brought in response, including the charge that by adopting that system we ignore remedies for many pests and problems by denying an approach based on scientific evidence.



Blogger caveman said...


Interesting post. Gauby's price increase was not only due to switching to Bio-d regime, but that is another question. I am surprised as the free marketter that you are that you would be begrudge a winemaker getting what he can for his bottles. Gauby's wine is expensive, but his white vieilles vignes is one of the better whites I have ever drunk. Ultimately, if Gauby is able to sell his wine (at whatever price), then it is due to it's quality, not because it is bio-d. If the market will tolerate it, then why not (other non-bio-d producers the world over get away with astronomical prices). Personally, I am prepared to spend a little more if a wine is organic, but there is a point that it comes down to quality. Always will.

Insofar as reducing yields is concerned, it will only be feasible if consumer buying habits folllow accordingly. We must assume that reduced yields will raise the quality of the bottlings (?) and subsequently the price of the wine. If we see an increase in higher priced wines, will the consumer follow, or will we just see more oversupply in a higher price bracket. I would love to see more people adopt the drink less but drink better policy and support those making distinctive, quality wines.

Insofar as those winemakers using bio-d as a marketting tool, check out the latest comment on my bio-d post.. I would love to get your take on it.

Hope Ma' Nature is being kind to you Cali folk.

May 12, 2006 8:26 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

"Insofar as those winemakers using bio-d as a marketting tool, check out the latest comment on my bio-d post.. I would love to get your take on it."

Bill, I commented directly on your blog, but I'll reiterate here: This is a craven smearing of someone who (though I don't agree with him on BioD) doesn't deserve it. Its crafted to read like an article from a publication, but no editor would be that sloppy (nor irresponsible legally). The author has also pasted it onto an obscure website for Organic wine discussion and the Slow Food forums (where it was appropriately deleted). This is obviously a former employee or grower with "issues" that he/she should deal with as adults do.....


May 15, 2006 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please learn how to spell.

"...that's where this movement get most of it's payback - in increased marketing hype, and differentiating it's products from other producers."

In both cases, the word is "its", without any apostrophe.

October 12, 2009 5:09 PM  

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