Organic wine really does taste better

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

Eco-friendly “organic” wine really does taste better, a new study found.

Wine made from grapes grown without chemicals or on biodynamic farms scored better in blind taste tests by professional wine reviewers than regular wines.

Eco-certified red wines were rated as tastier than white wines - but this could be because more eco red wine was cultivated and so tested.

University of California Los Angeles scientists looked at eco-certified wines made with grapes from organic and biodynamic farms.

They did not include organic wines which refers not only to how the grapes were grown but also how the wine was made.

Many consumers have been put off by organic or “natural” wines made without the preservative sulphite as they sour quickly and tend to cost more.

But the study found not only did eco-friendly wines taste better, often they were cheaper too.

Environmental economist Professor Magali Delmas said: “The bottom line is that however we look at it, we find that organic and biodynamic farming has these small but significant positive effects on wine quality.

“Wine makers say it’s better for the quality of the wine.

“It’s a purer taste with more sense of the terroir, because when you replace pesticides with labour, you have hands-on care for the vines and you improve the composition of the soil and you get back all the life - the microbes, insects, bees and worms that you need in agriculture.”

She added the misperception all eco-certified wine was worse than regular wines was “good news for consumers, because they will get higher-quality wine at a lower price.”

Just one per cent of wines in the study were eco-certified, and two-thirds of eco-certified California wineries do not showcase the seals on their bottles because of the general customer sentiment that eco-labelled wines are of lower quality.

But even though a 2014 study showed consumers won’t pay more for eco-wine so depressing the price, many vineyards still take on the expense of getting certified, facing 10-15 per cent higher costs for three to four years.

And although the study looked at Californian wines - which produces nine out of ten bottles in the US, preliminary results from tests studying French wine showed similar results,

The study looked at reviews and scores for more than 74,000 California wines from the magazines Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator.

On a standardised 100-point scale, eco-certified wines scored an average of 4.1 points higher.

Eco-certified red wines gained 5.6 extra points, compared with 1.3 points for white wines.

The standardised scale controlled for differences between the scoring systems - for example, easy graders versus hard graders.

Prof Delmas hoped the research will inspire vintners to show off their eco-certifications more boldly, and encourage more wineries to take up environmental practices.

Many family-owned vineyards shun chemicals as they plan to pass them down through the generations, she added.

The study was published in the Journal of Wine Economics.