30/01/2018 - 15:38

Supply potential for organic wines

30/01/2018 - 15:38

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The state’s organic wine market may be small but its product is in strong demand, according to local wine producers, with Blind Corner among a handful of growers planning to expand local operations and export activity.

Paul Maley says as general manager he will focus on opening up Blind Corner’s cellar door and initiating exports. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The state’s organic wine market may be small but its product is in strong demand, according to local wine producers, with Blind Corner among a handful of growers planning to expand local operations and export activity.

As a sign of his longer-term planning, Blind Corner owner and chief winemaker, Ben Gould, recently appointed Paul Maley as the winery’s first general manager.

The move comes after Blind Corner, which began in 2005 as a four-hectare vineyard in Wilyabrup, expanded operations in 2015 with the purchase of a 24ha vineyard in Quindalup to keep up with demand.

Despite having operated organically since 2009, Mr Gould’s Wilyabrup propery gained certification in 2016, while the Quindalup  vineyard was certified only late last year.

In tandem with his expansion plans, Mr Gould said certification at Quindalup was the right move.

“Australia Certified Organic (ACO) puts out a market report every year, and across the board organics is running about 50 per cent supply to demand, so demand is double the supply,” Mr Gould told Business News.

“Then of course there are so many more organic or eco-driven restaurants opening.

“For people who are certified, the gold standard is Cullen Wines; there’s a few more coming on now.”

Mr Gould said he believed Voyager Estate was aiming to plant a portion of its vineyard to organic grapes, while another established WA player was potentially doing the same.

“It (the local market) is still small, though,” he said, adding that Settlers Ridge Organic Wines and Burnside Organic Farm are certified, while Frankland Estate is close to 100 per cent organic. 

Having previously managed the Brisbane and Boulevard hotels, Mr Maley said he had bought and sold wine for the past 13 years and had a good understanding of customer tastes.

He said that in recent years he had noticed consumers become progressively interested in organic wine.

“Adding my skillset into the business, we will look to a few export markets; we’re currently not exporting at all,” Mr Maley told Business News.

“China’s pretty large on everyone’s horizon in the wine industry, but so is Japan, the UK, the US.”

Australian certified organic or biodynamic wine exports grew to $12 million in 2016, up 37 per cent in value from the previous year, according to wine market researcher, Wine Australia.

That accounted for 250,000 cases exported in 2016, less than 1 per cent of the nation’s wine exports but a 50 per cent increase on 2015 numbers for organic wine sales.

Cullen Wines managing director Vanya Cullen said interest in organic and biodynamic wine had grown in the past two years.

“People often ask what’s the difference between organic and biodynamic; we look at biodynamic as being organic-plus, so you’re organic and you also bring in the use of the planets for application time, particularly the moon, and the preparations,” she said.

“With biodynamics it’s all connected; it’s a living system about life from the soil to the vine to the sky.”

Although Cullen Wines sold predominately to the local market, Ms Cullen said it exported to about 20 countries, with most of this produce going to the UK.

“If you can brand it (wine) so it’s luxury organic pure, and Australia is in a good position, particularly Margaret River Western Australia where the environment is unpolluted, there’s huge export opportunity there,” Ms Cullen told Business News.

“There really isn’t any sustainability culture in the Australian wine industry, but we find if you travel overseas people are right there with (us).”

Ms Cullen said the local market was beginning to change as people became more aware of the benefits of organics.

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