Court rules against accusations of toxic elements in wine

You can’t knock a product publicly without good reason.
That, in substance, is what a court in Libourne decided yesterday when it fined an association called Alerte aux Toxiques 125,000 euros and ordered them to take down a report that Bordeaux wines contained a host of toxic residues.

Here’s the article from Today’s Sud-Ouest : Vins de Bordeaux : condamnée, Alerte aux toxiques va faire appel

The CIVB (Conseil Interprofessional des Vins de Bordeaux) questioned the methodology of the association’s findings that were published online and, above all, the snarky remarks that accompanied them. The association was thus found guilty of “dénigrement”, or “untruthful disparagement.”

I really don’t feel much sympathy for Valérie Murat because, although muckraking has its place, for sure, behaviour such as hers tends to paint everyone with the same brush and does harm.
Unlike most all other food products, wine escapes legislation requiring the listing of ingredients and “due dates”. While something should probably be done about that, a smear campaign based on shaky science is not the best way to go about achieving this.

Had the same woman presented her case differently, publishing the figures with the customary provisos all serious scientific studies should have, and, above all, interpreted them without bias or ill will, this all would have turned out very differently.

Surely a function of my age, I am not attracted by wines marketed as organic. This is not a selling point to me because a wine’s chief virtue to me is to taste good. I’ve had too many poor organic wines along the way. Before I, myself, am accused of ill will and bias, I’m willing to evaluate any wine as objectively as possible and, of course, acknowledge that there are some excellent organic wines. It’s just not the paramount criterion for me.

Madame Murat says she will appeal the court’s decision. I doubt the judgement will be as severe next time around, but plenty of people will be following this affair closely.

Best regards,
Alex
 

Tom Cannavan

Administrator
I don't seek out organic wines, but I am always quite pleased when a wine I really like has been farmed/made organically. At least we do now have organic wines that are basically every bit as good or bad as any non-organic wine, which was certainly not the case in the 1990s when the weird little organic section of a supermarket had a dozen wines, all terrible.
 
I think if we are honest with ourselves we are all influenced by aspects of a wine that have nothing to do with what could be determined in a blind tasting - and nothing wrong with that. Enjoying wine is more than the liquid in our mouth.

I think "organic" , "BD" and "naturalness" are just some of those aspects, along with whether we have visited the vineyard, whether we like the winemaker, its classification, appellation, country of origin, tradition etc.
 
I'm glad they got fined. But the discussion I've seen on French FB pages suggests that the damage has already been done. The aim was to rubbish the HVE certification and frighten consumers about toxins in all wines that are not organic. There have been reports like this before where a lobby group pays a lab to test their selection of wine or beer or food. The lab test can detect certain chemicals when present in tiny, tiny amounts. The reporters then come out with a scare-story about the number of different chemicals they found, ignoring the amounts of each.

I was at an Organic Wine workshop at Millesime Bio a couple of years ago where the strategy of filling the media with reports on pesticide residues and health risks was put forward as a way to keep the market for organic wines growing while maintaining higher prices. It's basically a smear campaign.

The HVE certification is really good thing. It is based on the idea of sustainable viticulture. Encouraging growers to limit their pesticide usage to minimum levels and also encouraging biodiversity in the vineyard and controlling the amounts of fertiliser and irrigation water.

Anyone who lives near vineyards knows that there are some growers who abuse their land. They spray so much herbicide that nothing grows and that means they never have to bother with ploughing or mowing. There are growers who spray their vines at maximum dosage to try to get zero losses from all the insects and diseases. There are those with old, faulty equipment and those who use unregulated workers to handle pesticides without protected clothign. These are the vignerons that need controlling and HVE goes a long way to doing that. My local Coop is trying to get all their members HVE certified.

It's really bad that some journalist sets out to rubbish that initiative and use false data to frighten consumers into organically certified wines. But that is the battleground we are in right now. Next they will be claiming that disease-resistant grape varieties cause cancer because they need to maintain their niche market and subscriptions. It's a dirty game.
 
Any food or drink marketing itself as 'organic' arouses my suspicion-not that there's anything wrong with qualifying for that distinction.
This is particularly true because a very great many of France's finest wines are at the very least organic and they do not mention the fact on labels or in publicity.

Perhaps Alex must surely mean that he's drunk too many wines "labelled organic" that have been poor? I would say that around 75% of the wines I drink now were farmed and made organically (which is far from agrichemical free), but I hardly ever see it on the label, maybe the occasional Ecocert label, or Demeter, for biodynamic.
 
I'm glad they got fined. But the discussion I've seen on French FB pages suggests that the damage has already been done. The aim was to rubbish the HVE certification and frighten consumers about toxins in all wines that are not organic. There have been reports like this before where a lobby group pays a lab to test their selection of wine or beer or food. The lab test can detect certain chemicals when present in tiny, tiny amounts. The reporters then come out with a scare-story about the number of different chemicals they found, ignoring the amounts of each.

I was at an Organic Wine workshop at Millesime Bio a couple of years ago where the strategy of filling the media with reports on pesticide residues and health risks was put forward as a way to keep the market for organic wines growing while maintaining higher prices. It's basically a smear campaign.

The HVE certification is really good thing. It is based on the idea of sustainable viticulture. Encouraging growers to limit their pesticide usage to minimum levels and also encouraging biodiversity in the vineyard and controlling the amounts of fertiliser and irrigation water.

Anyone who lives near vineyards knows that there are some growers who abuse their land. They spray so much herbicide that nothing grows and that means they never have to bother with ploughing or mowing. There are growers who spray their vines at maximum dosage to try to get zero losses from all the insects and diseases. There are those with old, faulty equipment and those who use unregulated workers to handle pesticides without protected clothign. These are the vignerons that need controlling and HVE goes a long way to doing that. My local Coop is trying to get all their members HVE certified.

It's really bad that some journalist sets out to rubbish that initiative and use false data to frighten consumers into organically certified wines. But that is the battleground we are in right now. Next they will be claiming that disease-resistant grape varieties cause cancer because they need to maintain their niche market and subscriptions. It's a dirty game.
I agree broadly with what you say, Jonathan. It's always a question of degree. There is no doubt that some sprays once in use were toxic and may have had negative effects on their users, who were mostly older guys wandering up the rows with a backpack and no face mask etc. There are even some sprays in use today that the evidence suggests users should be very wary of, and some in line for a ban in the EU. But that doesn't mean there are spray residues in the wine so long as the pre-harvest rules about not spraying are adhered to.

Lobbying is now so powerful that neither side should be trusted. So we are left to be sensible. My rule of thumb is that quality producers have no need to over spray etc, and are usually the people who think most about balancing crop losses with the long term health of their vineyard.

I do think one long term issue is soil health. Certainly poor farming has left big parts of Burgundy and Champagne with a headache on this score. My guess is that in the past larger producers are the ones who have been able to afford the greatest quantities of chemical inputs, though doubtless some lazy smaller ones have been persuaded of their efficacy despite cost. It's ironic that when you approach some of the older guys not using synthetic chems and ask them why, they don't come out with some natural wine philosophy. Rather, they point out that their father and grandfather could never afford chemicals because they didn't make enough money. A bit like some of the Hill Farmers or Farmhouse Cheese producers on the peripheries of our islands. But not all large producers fail to look to the future, a good example being Louis Roederer as discussed recently.
 
David,

If a wine is good *and* organic, so much the better!
However, what I do *not* like is when the fact the wine is reputedly organic (sorry, color me cynical, it's like "fair trade"....) seems to be its main selling point!

Selling organic wines means you can ask for a higher price.
*If* the wine is good as well, I don't mind paying more.
But I've been burnt badly a number of times, and so shy away.
Some of the adepts of organic wine - tree-hugging and bobo types - have unfortunately added to what may be an unfair prejudice.

You say that about three quarters of all the wine you drink is farmed *and* made organically, but that most don't put that fact of the label.
Am I to assume you have detailed knowledge of the winemaking methods of every wine you drink?
That's possible, it would just surprise me.

Best regards,
Alex R.
 
I can’t think of more than a small handful of wines that ‘market’ themselves as organic and I can think of dozens, maybe hundred/s that are organic certified but don’t mention it.

‘Going organic’ is not an easy thing. The idea that producers do it to make more money is fanciful.
 
Hi Russell,

I realize that this is a touchy subject for you... I am thinking of the AB label on so much wine I see in French supermarkets, which sell three quarters of all wine.

I have much more respect for those growers who, as you say, are faithful to their principles and/or their certification, but do not proclaim it on the bottles they sell.

All the best,
Alex
 
Phil,

That was a fairly outrageous characterization of a certain type of save-the-planet, kumbaya, touchy-feely sort of person.

Perhaps OTT and extraneous in the framework of this discussion.

All the best,
Alex R.
 
Alex, it seems rather touchier for you than most ;) !

I assumed you meant something like this:
1614494099870.jpeg

I don’t think using the little green label is really ‘marketing’! They are standard across organic foods, and maybe even mandatory for some types (‘prepared foods’).
As you know the cheap Bordeaux wines sold in such supermarkets are really struggling to sell, I don’t think certified conversion to organic is a cheap or simple way to differentiate, but also suspect it’s not a very reliable indicator or quality.
 
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