Strategies for Retailing Sustainable Wines

Consumers today are more conscious than ever about what they put into their bodies, and how these products impact the environment. This ties into two trends currently defining the food and beverage industry: craft and nutrition.

So it’s no surprise that the wine category has recently seen an uptick in consumer interest in vineyards that are sustainable, organic and/or biodynamic. Retailers across the country have begun to highlight these producers and their wines.

One such business is Astor Wines & Spirits on Lafayette St. in Lower Manhattan. The business stocks around 3,000 wines, a significant portion of which are organic and biodynamic. I recently spoke with Lorena Ascencios, wine buyer at Astor Wines & Spirits, about this focus of the store

Kyle Swartz: How do you define wineries with organic/biodynamic practices?

Lorena Ascencios: Recognizing wines that are organic/natural/biodynamic means that the winery has above-standard practices in the vineyard, throughout the growing season, during harvest and in the cellar. Many of the great wines that we carry fall into this organic/natural/biodynamic category, and they come from smaller, family-owned operations and are above-and-beyond the standard of industrial or more-commercial wines.

KS: What are you looking for in an organic/biodynamic winery?

LA: We are looking for wines that offer a better wine qualitatively with the added benefit of no synthetic chemicals and, in many cases, zero added chemicals.

KS: How do you highlight these wines in your store? Is there signage?

LA: We highlight all products with labels that have a green leaf on them.

KS: Do you have advice for retailers thinking about starting a similar wine section in their store?

LA: My advice is to be selective and to taste as many of these wines as possible. Just because they fall into this category of organic/natural/biodynamic doesn’t mean they’re automatically good.

KS: How much consumer education do you typically do with these wines? What do you focus on when educating customers?

LA: Our staff will speak to consumers who are looking for more advice about any wine that falls into this category.

KS: What do consumers most like about these wines?

LA: Many consumers state that they don’t feel hung-over or headache-y the day after drinking these wines. As conventionally made wines can legally have hundreds of synthetic chemicals added to them either during the growing season or wine-making process, many consumers are more comfortable drinking less synthetic chemicals.

KS: Do you detect any flavor/texture differences in these wines?

LA: Many of these wines are cleaner, and don’t make me sneeze upon tasting them. Again, not all, but many. You must be selective. Nearly a third of our wine selections fall into the organic/natural/biodynamic category. I aim to grow this category further.

KS: What are some of your favorite organic/biodynamic wineries? Why?

LA: Buzio from Monferrato is a dear family to me. I know them well, have bought their wines for years and they have such a purity to them. They are my house wines and are so affordable. Same with the wines of Viña Ilusion of Rioja Baja. I also adore the wines of the Gulfi winery in Sicily, as well as the Burgundies of Guillot-Broux. They all have such purity of character and are delicious. It’s that simple.

Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz or Instagram @cheers_magazine. Read his recent piece Strong Sales Continue for Champagne and Sparkling Wine.

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