The legend goes that champagne was first invented in the 17th century by a French Benedictine monk by the name of… Dom Pierre Pérignon (sound familiar?). On discovering his creation, he reportedly shouted to the rest of the monks, “Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!”
Now, whether this urban legend is true or not remains to be seen. The point is, the elixir that he so enjoyed is still one of the most luxurious comestibles available today. And if champagne is your thing, and if you’re going to be spending vast sums of money on such a fine product, why aren’t you drinking the best there is? By which we mean, organic champagne.
Out of the 33,000 hectares of vines that grow in Champagne, only 600 of them are certified organic. That doesn’t mean that very few vineyards in Champagne are organic, not at all. It’s simply that the process to become certified is a lengthy and costly bureaucratic affair. Meaning many vintners are opting not to undertake the certification, but are instead simply following organic farming practices and producing fabulous sparkling wine, which is organic in every aspect but name.
So this might make your hunt for organic champagne a little trickier than a hunt for a good organic red wine, or a cheeky little organic white wine, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t readily available if you just know where to look.
We ourselves have a fabulous practising organic champagne available on our website, and while it may not be organic in name, it is in nature.
Why drink organic champagne?
So what is it about organic champagne that sets it apart from the mass-produced stuff?
The commitment to the organic cause
Firstly there’s the time taken to turn a vineyard organic. The commitment to organic viticulture practices isn’t one to be taken lightly, especially if you hope to be certified organic at the end of the process. It can take almost 6 years to be able to use the official organic seal on your bottles.
A community affair
It’s a community affair, turning a vineyard organic. You are officially checked once a year, where the vine leaves and grapes are tested for traces of pesticide residue. You need to ensure that your neighbours aren’t spraying their crops with chemicals in case any should happen to drift from their vines over onto yours.
A healthier choice
Champagne is naturally very acidic and winemakers like to balance that acidity by adding in extra sugar (particularly if the grapes aren’t as ripe as they need to be).
But organic champagne, where winemakers typically follow the tenets of biodynamic farming too and routinely opt for a low intervention approach with their product, will not add any sugar to their wine, making it zero dosage, in order to stick to their minimal intervention way of working.
Better for the environment
Like all organic produce, the production of organic champagne is better for the environment. By farming organically, the winemaker is refraining from using synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilisers to improve their crop.
Instead, they rely on growing cover crops to feed the soil between growing seasons, on predatory insects to keep the pests under control, and on natural fertilisers like manure to feed the plants.
But it’s not just organic champagne that is better for you and the environment…
We Brits love Prosecco. So much so, out of the 500 million bottles of prosecco that are drunk globally, annually, the UK is the main consumer, imbibing around one-third of all bottles exported.
Why do we love prosecco?
Because it’s considerably cheaper than champagne. It has fewer calories than wine. It typically has a lower alcohol content too. Not to mention it’s delicious. But this love affair comes at a cost to the Italian countryside.
The damaging prosecco effect
In order to meet the growing demand for prosecco, the areas that fall under the prosecco DOC – the designation of controlled origin, i.e the designated areas that can produce ‘prosecco’, the powers that be have extended the region to allow producers to focus on volume, rather than quality. And the impact this has had on the environment can’t be ignored.
To meet consumer demand, the use of chemicals and pesticides to guarantee a good harvest and speed up production is having a devastating effect, not just on the vines themselves, but on the biodiversity of the surrounding countryside, the flora and the fauna. And reports of locals moving away from the area to escape the ‘prosecco pollution’, mean communities are being torn apart too.
Drink organic sparkling wine
But you can do something about this. You can support the alternative prosecco producers – the ones adhering to traditional viticulture practices, to practising organic farming, dedicated to making a product that isn’t just better for humans, but for the planet too, such as Botter Asolo, Prosecco Superiore Extra Brut DOCG. Crisp and lively, yet well balanced – you won’t want to go commercial again!