Friday 30 January 2009

Go organic - wine fair in Montpellier

This week over 300 producers of organic wine converged on Montpellier for the annual 'Millésime Bio' wine fair. This event was created in 1993 by a small group of organic wine producers in the Languedoc Roussillon. The original goal was to promote L-R wines to potential purchasers and although it is still geared towards international buyers, the event has expanded each year and now attracts exhibitors from 13 different countries. 

All exhibitors must produce wine from grapes which are certified as being organically grown (or be 'in conversion' ie well on the way to full certification). Confusingly, there are several different organisations which regulate certification of organic wine. To name a few - AIAB, Bio Alsace, Biodyvin, Bio-Inspecta (sounds scary!), Bios, Bureau Veritas, CCIAA (even scarier), OPABA, Nature et Progrès and the two main organic organisations in Europe, Demeter and FNIVAB. Phew!

Organisers are keen to stress the friendly spirit of the exhibition and encourage discovery of different wines by arranging exhibitors' tables randomly, rather than by origin. While this 'friendly spirit' is all well and good, it must make it alot more difficult for serious buyers to find what they are looking for. That said, I've always enjoyed this wine fair and it certainly is very friendly and relaxed. So relaxed in fact that it was almost deserted between 12 and 2 as exhibitors and visitors alike enjoyed a good, long lunch!

So, what of the wines? I was only there for a few hours so barely scratched the surface. From the Languedoc, I particularly enjoyed an elegant Roussanne and fragrant Pinot Noir from Les Chemins des Bassac, a full-throttle Syrah from Chateau Maris in Minervois La Livinière and the excellent range of wines from Alain Chabanon, one of the most talented winemakers in the Languedoc. Also good are the innovative reds from Domaine de Brau in the Cabardes, and the tasty new releases from Englishwoman Catherine Wallace at Chateau de Combebelle in St Chinian.


  1. Hi,
    I work for Millésime Bio, and I thank you for your post.
    But I would like to make corrections to some things you wrote about the certification of organic wine (I must admit it's complicated and confusing!)

    1st, AIAB is the Italian Federation of Organic Agriculture, not a certificator of organic wine.

    2nd, Biodyvin and Demeter are for vines grown according to biodynamics agriculture.
    FNIVAB is one of the associations of producers who make wine according to their charter (less SO2 than allowed by the law... and such things, so that not only the grapes are organic, but the wine may be considered organic too). There are a few of this charters, and the European Orwine project is currently working on the unification of those charters, so that wine producers in Europe finally implement the same rules to make organic wine.
    Orwine is headed and coordinated by the AIAB.

    Last, the main certification companies are Ecocert, Nature et Progrès, Burau Véritas.

  2. Thanks very much for clarifying the above Cendrine. As you say, it is confusing and a charter than unifies all the different rules for making organic wine can't come soon enough. Any idea of a date for realising the Orwine project? I guess these things take time!