Categories on the fringe

Most of these categories can be defined or measured. For example, organic wines can be registered with an official body such as Bio-Gro. (Photo: iStock)

The UK-based market research organisation, Wine Intelligence, has released a summary of a report on a wine category they have labelled “Sustainable, Organic & Lower-alcohol” (SOLA) wine. This category includes:

Each of these categories will influence wine consumers and, for that reason, it would be helpful if an abbreviation appeared on wine lists and perhaps even bottle labels.
  • Low alcohol wines
  • Non-alcohol wines
  • Fairtrade wines
  • Organic wines
  • Sustainably produced wines
  • Environmental-friendly wines
  • Wines from a carbon-neutral winery
  • Biodynamic wines
  • Preservative-free wines
  • Sulphite-free wines
  • Orange/skin contact wines
  • Vegan wines

Most of these categories can be defined or measured. For example, organic wines can be registered with an official body such as Bio-Gro, while low alcohol wines in this country are required to have an alcohol content of less than 1.15% (are their any?).

Others are, to me at least, a little woolly. Fairtrade wine can use the Fairtrade Foundation symbol if the producer is registered with that organisation. Their website states,

“Buying Fairtrade wine helps ensure that farmers and workers are receiving a fair price – as well as an additional premium to help their community invest in essential services such as education, sanitation and healthcare. Wine producers across South Africa and South America face unique economic, social and political challenges. From the legacy of apartheid in South Africa and low market prices in South America, farmers are exposed to an unpredictable future.”

Wines that do not display the Fairtrade symbol may still be paying farmers and workers a fair price. I assume that all New Zealand wines would qualify for the Fairtrade status if they applied for it. The same may be true of many wineries in South Africa and South America.

I could not find a New Zealand definition for environmentally-friendly wines. It does appear to be something of an umbrella that includes wines made sustainably, organically or by using biodynamic methods.

How much skin contact does a wine need before it can be called “orange”? I guess it’s discretionary. If a winemaker calls a wine “orange” then it qualifies.

Each of these categories will influence wine consumers and, for that reason, it would be helpful if an abbreviation appeared on wine lists and perhaps even bottle labels. Some, such as low alcohol wines, non-alcohol wines, preservative-free wines, sulphite-free wines and vegan wines probably deserve their own category on wine lists. A true vegan is unlikely to taste a non-vegan wine.

Others might simply feature a symbol in the same way that dairy-free or gluten-free foods on a menu are identified for diners.

It is conceivable that one wine could be qualified by (ft), (og), (cn), (pf), (or), (ve). Consulting a wine list may be about to become more complicated.

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