Once upon a time (the 1970s), in a far off land (France), the idea and practice of organic farming began to take root and shape its history.
According to the Organics Institute:
“The modern organic movement began at the same time as industrialized agriculture. It began in Europe around the 1920s, when a group of farmers and consumers sought alternatives to the industrialization of agriculture. In Britain, the organic movement had gathered pace in the 1940s…. It was not until the Second World War that farming methods changed dramatically. It was when research on chemicals designed as nerve gas showed they were also capable of killing insects… The organic movement had sprung directly from the customers’ demands as they became sick of the health hazards associated with the use of chemicals in food and household products.”
In the Languedoc, wine importer Véronique Raskin’s 75 year-old grandfather Pierre Fabre, who was a Professor of Medicine, was pioneering organic viticulture. He decided to convert the family property Domaine de la Bousquette to organic methods, and then to bottle its wine. La Bousquette is located 10 miles North of Béziers (a town made famous during the Cathar crusades). The winery and vineyard are located in the center of the Languedoc region, only 20 miles from the Mediterranean Sea.
Véronique, founder and president of the Organic Wine Company, was born and raised in the South of France, close to the historic walled city of Carcassone. She attended the University of Toulouse, and originally came to this country as a psychology graduate in 1973 to study “Structural Integration” with the renowned Ida Rolf, eventually writing her Ph.D thesis on the work. Soon after accomplishing these goals, she fell in love, married, ran a successful professional practice, and made San Francisco her home away from home.
Domaine de la Bousquette has been in their family since 1791; and by 1980, Pierre had accomplished his organic goals. In the process, his passion and knowledge for organic wines had been transferred to Véronique. She offered to import the La Bousquette wines into California, to maintain a connection with the family land, and to further her grandfather’s dream. She was passionate about the organic vision, and believed that organic wine was an idea whose time had come. Today, she owns The Organic Wine Company, and her journey is a tale of immense proportion; with leadership, intrigue, and deception woven into a very complex pattern. But, when you find out the simple truths behind it, you’ll know all about the history of organic wines in the US, and it’s not what you’ll expect.
Fasten your seat belts, kids, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
The shocking truths behind organic wines in the United States
Véronique Raskin is no shrinking violet, let me first tell you that. To be in her presence, you know that something very powerful is going on between her gorgeous ears. It’s a mystery to me why the people she has come in contact with would ever let the following story evolve. Surely they would know that one day it would see the light of day, and dark shadows would be cast.
Véronique’s organic vineyards are certified by ECOCERT (Ecology Certification), one of France’s certification associations with standards spelling out precisely what materials, quantities, and procedures are permitted in growing grapes and making wine (and foods) organically. But, segueing organic wines into the United States and defining “Organic Wines” in the US is a story you’d never expect to know from this pioneer of the movement.
The facts to follow are Véronique’s own experiences in her own words. It’s a story that she’s long wanted to tell, but there’s been no outlet for telling it. I told her I wouldn’t name name if she didn’t want that… She asked me, “Why? the facts are what they are, known by several people in this process.”
Tomorrow, the saga will begin.