It could finally be official, organic wine does taste better than non-organic wine.
Researchers from the University of California studied expert reviews of over 74,000 wines from three leading wine magazines. These wines had come from 3,482 vineyards in California between 1998 and 2004. Using a 100-point scale, the team found that organic wines scored around 4.1 points higher than non-organic wines.
How is Organic Wine Produced?
Organic wine comes from grapes grown without pesticides and artificial fertilisers. Genetically modified yeast and sulphites cannot be used. But organic wines may contain sulphur dioxide which act as a preservative.
Most wineries use mulching, composting and manure to grow crops and use mechanical weeding and mowing, instead of toxic weed killers.
To avoid using insecticides, some vineyards let chickens pick off damaging worms from the leaves on the vines.
The researchers looked at reviews from the three renowned wine publications which do blind tastings and mark wines on a 100-point scale. Wines scoring 90 or more get rated as superb or outstanding. Wines considered undrinkable have a score of below 59.
The study looked at over 30 grape varieties and found that organic wines achieved considerably higher scores that pushed them up into the higher ratings.
The academics behind the study suggest that adopting organic practices and avoiding pesticides, allows microbes in the soil to flourish. This enhances the grapes’ flavour and gives a better reflection of the vine’s natural environment.
Growing grapes without using fertilisers can also mean less grapes are produced. This can improve quality and make the juice more concentrated and tastier as the vine is ripening a smaller number of fruit.
The overall conclusion of the study is that organic and biodynamic farming has a positive effect on wine quality.
These new findings contradict much of the long-held views that eco-labelled wines are of lower quality. This has led to some organic wineries not labelling their wines as organic. But researchers hope that their study will encourage organic winemakers to now display the proper labels on their bottles.
Critics Of The Research
But not everyone seems convinced by the research. Some wine experts argue that there could be many factors influencing the organic wines achieving much higher scores.
For example, it is not clear whether there has been a like for like comparison. Other factors affecting the way wine tastes include the method use to pick the grapes – by hand or machine – and their treatment in the winery. Organic wine producers are also generally more quality conscious. They tend to use particular methods that will likely result in a better-quality wine.
So, as some argue, it’s not entirely clear whether these factors, or because the grapes themselves are grown organically, is why the scores are higher for these wines. Examples of organic wine in our collection includes this rich Organic Merlot from Montanar and this Organic Monastrell from Bodega Castano.