Organic wine in France

organic wineWhen I first came across organic wine it was frankly a victory of conviction over taste to drink it, but now there are some organic wines that can hold their own against most mid market contenders.

The sector has grown massively in the last twenty years. The latest figures are that there are now 5,186 organic vineyards with a further 150 in conversion from industrial to organic in the first quarter of 2016.  With exports up 25% there has been a 10% increase in the total number of hectares under organic production between 2015 and 2016. Organic wine now represents 9% of the total French wine production, Amphore which organises a professional wine tasting awards every year just celebrated it’s twenty years anniversary this May, chief organiser Pierre Guigui says, “Twenty years ago there was 300 organic wine producers, now there is 16 times more.However at this rate it will be another two centuries before we convert all of the French wine industry.”

Is there such a thing as organic wine?

Now I have my issues with organic wine, I am not over sure a “pur et dur” organic wine exists in France. There are a few reasons for this doubt.

Firstly vineyards that have been used to produce industrial wine before have been saturated with pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers for decades. The short period of conversion to organic, while very painful for the owner does not in my opinion allow enough time for these chemicals to leach out.

Secondly the distance between an organic exploitation and an industrial one is actually quite small, simply three rows of vines. I drive through clouds of chemicals when I pass a sprayer, and here in the Corbieres we gave been known to have a bit of wind ever now again, chemicals like ideas know no borders.

So OK, you do what we did,  you find a bit of land that has not been worked for years and had no neighbours, then you can pass directly to organic status, superb no problems with spray, no underlying chemicals but you still have to obey the orders that arrive from the Prefecture when their are outbreaks of diseases, sometimes there are organic alternatives, sometimes not.

Those niggles aside however organic wine production is a vast improvement on industrial wine production, it’s concentration on biodiversity, soil management and purity of production has both huge environmental impact and lowers the headache factor of over indulgence. It also allows wine producers to benefit from slightly higher prices to compensate for the lower production level. The key factor however is to find the balance between quality and value for money, with lower buying power organic wine needs to not price itself out of the mid market.

Amphore Organic Wine Competition

Journée BIO des Corbières

Journée BIO des Corbières



It is that time of year again, the lovely organic festival at the Chateau de Bonnafous is this Sunday, 5th June from 9am all day. It is a great little showcase of the organic producers in the area. However it would be great to see them add a bit of other local production, there are now at least six other plant growers in Les Corbieres, a Safron producer, three herb transformers, who make essential oils and dried herbs as well as more and more vegetable growers. Most of the above try and follow a near organic approach but for various reasons cannot describe themselves as organic. Normally they cannot afford the three year transition that it takes for an existing small holding to become organic, or they resent paying 700 euro a year to prove a negative. I mean it is a bit ridiculous that we have to pay a certifier to say that we don’t use chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides. Instead of resellers of ‘magnetic rocks’ that apparently help you lose weight as an obese reseller explained to me last year(1)why not open the festival up to the many new producers that are arriving in Les Corbieres. We really have a new groove going on let’s celebrate it.

That is the rant over, it is still a great day and the weather is looking good. Best time to get here is around 11, that way you can have a good look around, buy some plants and be in place for the free appero/wine tasting of the organic wine producers then settle down to some serious eating.

Hope to see you there.

Stands de producteurs bio et artisanat, conférences, animations, musique

à 9h : Ouverture au public

à 10h: “Viande bio ou pas bio ? pourquoi ?” conférence par Marie Paule Nougaret ;

à 11h45 : apéritif offert – dégustation des vins des producteurs présents – Lâcher de pigeons ;

à 14h: “Le Jardin écologique” conférence par Hélène Hollard ;

à 15h30 : “Échappées sauvages ” divertissement pour les enfants avec la Cie “Les Baladins du Rire” ;

à 17h30 : tirage de la tombola

(1)Nothing against obese people or resellers, as someone who does not have any ‘truc’ with the mumbo jumbo aspect of the organic movement it just struck me as vaguely ironic

journe bio Corbieres

Journée Bio 2016

Le TAFTA et les accords de libre echange

Le TAFTA et les accords de libre echange-une menace pour les paysans, citoyen-nes, la démocratie?

The TransAtlantic trade agreements and free exchange agreementsè a treat to farmers, citizens and democracy?

20.30 Friday, 18th March, salles Louis Coste, 14 rue Blanquerie, Limoux.

Speakers Jean Michel Ferrandini and Michel Deiss from the Collectif Stop TAFTA

Organised by the Confederation Paysanne Aude

The Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negociated between the EU and the US is a wide ranging free trade agreement covering, amongst other things, food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations. There are very serious concerns about a lowering of health and food safety standards in Europe, the effective legalisation of organically modified organisms and the end to the European ban on a number of pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals.  Wikipedia gives a good overview of the state of Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, with links to most pro and contra viewpoints. Personally I think the existing World Trade Organisation rules liberal enough for Trans Atlantic trade.


Who owns the US organic market?

US organic mrketWhere the US corporations lead the rest of the world follows, the organic market is no different.

The US organic market is the world’s leading organic market, in 2013 Statista estimated it at 24, 347 million Euros, as opposed to Europe’s largest organic market Germany 7,550 million Euros (See :

Organically certified food is in that premium food category loved by corporations, a niche market that is up to a point price insensitive. Organic buyers motivated primarily by perceived health benefits, and secondly by the environmental benefits of organic production allow corporations to increase their profit yields by paying a larger premium for organic. The major US food corporations have been quick to step in. The reality is that in the US, as in Europe, the majority of organic produce is not bought at farmers markets or direct from producers, they are just a side show, the real business is through major retailers.

Large food corporations are of a size that can negotiate with large retailers and the wider range of produce they can offer the more powerful negotiating hand they hold.

According to Dr. Phil Howard, an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State the first acquisition wave was between December 1997 and October 2002, this coincided with the launch and implementation of the US organic standards which regularised the rules for certified organic produce. A second wave started after 2012, 

Dr. Howard observes, “I expect more deals to occur, since organic foods sales continue to increase faster than sales of conventional foods, and corporations are flush with cash and/or access to cheap credit.”

Source: The Cornucopia Institute

Back to work- at last



Sitting down for a well deserved cup of tea. After five weeks in hospital over Christmas and New Year, and a couple of weeks of fiddling around the Domaine repairing the damage the wild boar have done, finally I have restarted work on the plants. Being able to work in a T Shirt with a wonderful view of a snow covered Canagou probably helps.

Caroline was up before me and kindly labelled all the Moroccan Mints (Mentha spicata var. crispa) which I had separated out yesterday, as well as sowing 65 pots of parsley who’s seeds she had soaked for a good 24 hours before hand. The Moroccan mints are truly incredible, a variety of Spear Mint with such a powerful aroma, makes a fantastic tea, great for adding to salads, mixing in with fruit salad. A client from the Perpignan market brought me back some cuttings from an organic farm her brother runs in Algeria .

Finally I got round to digging out the Aquatic Mint barrel, killing all the horrible moth larva, cutworms I think, that infests all the barrels and replacing it with Chocolate Mint (Mentha × piperita ‘Chocolate Mint’) to create a mother plant for the years to come. What on earth possessed me to buy an aquatic mint in the first place eludes me, they are wonderful if you have a stream running at the bottom of the garden, or a pond, half way up a mountain in the south of France is however a less than optimal location.



The French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa ) is way ahead of schedule, so I lifted out the smaller of the mother plants and separated out 35 side shoots- if we don’t get a late winter they should rapidly flourish. I did however pop them into small pots, so if no hard frosts arrive then they will have to be repotted in April/May.

I may be completely wrong but I have a suspicious feeling that Winter isn’t finished with us yet, usually she waits until the Pyrenees ski stations close, after Easter, and then dumps a load of snow.

After the devastation caused by the wild boar all around our garden I finally took a deep breath and rebuilt the wall of the last years tomato patch. I clipped back and replanted the Loch Ness blackberries that the pigs had dug up, hopefully saving them. In front of them I put I a line of rosemary, then sage and in the front marjoram oregano, if all goes to plan and they are not dug up again they will be great from cutting and drying by the end of summer- although I do find that Rosemary takes at least two years to get its roots down before it starts growing noticeably above ground, I think I will clip their heads off and see if that encourages side growth earlier. Now onto the rest of the garden that has been dug up.

Foire Plantes et Nature de Prades 2016

foire de plantes et nature prades

foire de plantes et nature prades

Foire Plantes et Nature de Prades, the Spring Prades plant festival has been announced for the 10th April. It is a really nice plant festival, usually with a bbq and bar/buvette. As well as plants there are usually a number of environmental / green associations, honey sellers, dried herb sellers (Please check out our new selection first), lombiculure folks, and other assorted greenery stands. About a third of the sellers are certified organic producers, and the food has a gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options, well they did at last year’s Autumn foire de plantes.

If the weather is good then the Foire Plantes et Nature is held in the central square under the plantain trees, if not then in the Sports centre just off the road to the Pyrenees.

Here are a few photos of the 2014 event





Here is a list of those sellers who where at the Autumn Foire de Plantes

If you are interested in booking a stall then the contact details of the Association herb folles an be seen here They are also just visible on the poster on the left.

Opening time 9am until 5pm

Hope to see you there

Court Circuit en Corbieres new blog

Court Circuit en Corbieres

Court Circuit en Corbieres

Court Circuit en Corbieres, our local association has launched s new blog. Court Circuit en Corbieres is now entering their third year of bringing local producers together with local clients. Court Circuit en Corbieres was formed as a response to the atomisation and economic decline of the Haut Corbieres. Drawing its inspiration from the ideas of the Slow Food Movement and also Transition Network, but also reaching back to the neo-ruralists of the late 1960s  Circuit en Corbieres seeks to encourage local residents and visitors alike to meet and support local producers, they work to encourage new producers to move and establish themselves in the Haut Corbieres.

Court Ciucuit en Corbieres acivities


Court Circuit en Corbieres runs a local producer delivery system, whereby you can order from a monthly updated list of local suppliers produce, see

From June to September Court Circuit en Corbieres also organise a lovely little evening market in Laroque de Fa every Friday evening, from 5pm to 9pm, with a buvette, a bbq and food, often music so you can make a pleasant evening chatting with local producers and meeting locals and visitors alike.  See for more details.  We try and attend every month but because we do Narbonne Organic market and the Perpignan local producers market in Place de la Republique  every Saturday, as well as organic festivals and flower markets on Sundays it not possible to do every week. We need some sleep after all.

(Court Circuit en Corbieres is trying to keep local money local, as opposed to buying from the large national and international food retailers, so they are also looking at local money schemes such as the Cers complementary local money scheme based around Narbonne, but used throughout the Aude.

Slow Food Roussillon

Baldwin’s European Herb map

A bit of fun from Baldwins, London’s oldest herbalist- click on the map for an enlarged version


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Baldwins website and blog