Supplier Spotlight: Q&A with Vintage Roots

At Cookery School we buy our wines from Vintage Roots, a certified organic wine supplier who have supported and promoted organic viticulture since starting the business in 1986. We opened our account with Vintage Roots in 2004 and have enjoyed almost 20 years of working together and seeing organic wines really take to the stage.

With organic wine consumption steadily increasing year-on-year we spoke to Vintage Roots founder and director, Neil Palmer, about the early days and how he sees the future of wine.

  1. Was organic production popular at that time in France and across Europe?

It was certainly not that popular when we started in 1986. The certifying bodies were different back then ‘Nature et Progres’ and Lemaire Boucher for example. Folk that went organic in the 1980’s or before were very committed, it was not trendy back then.

  1. Is it a coincidence that The Organic Food Federation was founded in 1986, the year that Vintage Roots was founded?

That is a coincidence yes, but a lot of good things started in that year of 1986, I keep seeing it pop up everywhere. Planet alignments maybe?! It was also the time of Maggie Thatcher’s ‘Enterprise Allowance Scheme’ which allowed people to start businesses whilst receiving welfare payments for a year (dole money) without having to sign on.

  1. What was the consumer’s response to an organic wine company? Was Vintage Roots leading the way with its organic only model?

We were market leaders, along with another couple of companies, but Vintage Roots was about the only one to start and maintain with the 100% organic commitment.

‘Is it made from carrots?’ and ‘Has it got alcohol in it?’ were the two most commonly asked questions.

  1. Working with small sustainable vineyards is really brilliant for helping to address climate change and to build awareness of this with customers. Do the vineyards ever face challenges with the organic certification requirements?

Certification is a choice and necessary if you want to market your wines as such. Like everything else there is a cost and work involved  -the wrong way round really.

  1. Now that you are a much bigger operation are you able to visit all of the vineyards that you work with?

We are bigger than we were, but not big really compared to the major drinks companies out there. We try to visit as many of the vineyards we deal with as possible but the reality is, we simply do not have the time. Too busy at the desk and in the warehouse running a busy business and working with the team.

  1. Do you work with any specific vineyards that go above and beyond the organic certification with pioneering sustainable methods and initiatives?

Yes we do and try to seek these out. We still work with some of the pioneers who led the way back then – for example Albet I Noya in Catalonia, Fleury in Champagne, Fasoli Gino in Veneto, Olivier Azan in the Languedoc, Emiliana in Chile and more. Many of these vineyards also work in biodynamics, use renewable power, reduce their outputs, provide excellent conditions for their workers, and experiment with resistant grape varieties which need less treatments. 

  1. With such increased interest in organic wines do you think we will see small and large, old and new vineyards increasingly turn to organic viticulture?

This is already happening, the growth has been particularly fast over the last 5 years.

  1. How do you see the future of wine for Vintage Roots?

We will have a lot more competition as the bigger players start to get involved, and pretend they have always been leading the field! Being just organic in the future may not be enough to stand out.


Find out more – six reasons to drink organic wine

We serve Vintage Roots organic wines across many of our classes and courses and our professional six weeks Cook’s Certificate in Food & Wine includes a A Level 2 Award in Wines from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET).

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