Since a few months I have become a fanatical customer of BioPlanet, the bio-supermarket chain linked to the Colruyt group, www.bioplanet.be, and I find myself being hooked by the intense taste of bio-products. But whenever I go, it is with a little twinge of regret and guilt because I did not go to the local bio-shop where I was a customer for years. So this brought me to a good question: when bio becomes big business, is this good or bad ?
I think most of us, when we buy and love biologically sound goods, also have a romantic idea entangled. One of the nice things about it is that you often seem to know where it comes from, and we allways think of small scale wineries, cheesemakers, bakeries etc, when we buy most of these things. It gives us the idea of not following the masses, fighting the big industrial conglomerates and when the result of this is small scale production we think this is human and fine.
But of course, where trends and fashion go, big companies follow, and now we see big retailers picking up these ideas and offering larger and larger product ranges. And because of their scale they need to work with companies that can offer them sufficient supply. So out goes the small farmer and in come the bigger groups.
A good example of this is the bottle of Wolfberger Crémant d'Alsace I am now drinking (www.wolfberger.com). I bought it at Bioplanet and I like it so much that it has become my summer-bubble for "unexpected visitors" or "too lazy too think hard about my wine" or when I am just in the mood. It is decent, it's even good with its toasted bread and flowery nose and its nice crispness and volume. But the Wolfberger cooperative has about 680 ha vineyards and is one of the biggest wine companies of the Alsace...so is this bottle "politically" correct ?
Yes, I think so because:
1: It is certified bio. Every acre of ground that is not destroyed by herbicides and pesticides is an acre won.
2: It is made by a cooperative. Coop's were originally meant to unify the small famers and make them stronger. This does not allways result in bigger quality (well it usually does not) but from a social view coop's once saved thousands of farmers and workers from poverty.
3: It is what I call an honest bottle. You know where the grapes come from and what the farming philosophy was behind it.
4: When things like this happen it also proves that the bio-ideas are becoming mainstream. This may seem less romantic, but nobody can say it is bad. As long as it is not an excuse for maintaining bad practices in the rest of the company.
Some second thoughts however:
1: Every wine should be bio, not only part of a range.
2: the sense of terroir is lost a bit here. I don't know who made it and what he meant by it.
But in general, yes I do think it is a good thing this. ** for this wine and welcome in my cellar. And now I'm going downstairs for another glass !