Does organic wine taste bad? Researchers say it’s as good, if not better, than regular stuff. – Quartz


People are often willing to pay more for meat and organic products, expecting better quality products and less impact on the environment. Wine is another story. Wine lovers tend to be wary of organic offerings, but a new study shows they might be missing out on high-quality drinks.

The study, published online Aug. 2 in the American Journal of Wine Economics, used professional evaluations of more than 70,000 California wines to determine if there was a difference in quality between wines produced under environmentally friendly conditions. environment and those using grapes grown with conventional pesticides and fertilizers. For red wines, an ecological certification from the USDA or the Demeter association resulted in an average rating increase of 5.6 points.

The figures come from 11 years of evaluation of wines from Wine spectator, Wine lover, and Wine advocate. These magazines all use blind tests to rate wines on a 100 point scale, and their ratings are widely respected by consumers.

But even with a favorable rating, environmentally friendly wines get a bad rap with many wine buyers. “There is a negative perception of organic wine,” says Magali Delmas, an economist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and one of the study’s authors.

Real organic wines, USDA certified, are probably as bad as wine lovers think, she says. USDA organic wines do not contain sulfites, an important additive that helps stabilize wine and stop spoilage. But wines produced with organic USDA grapes may contain sulphites and are therefore more shelf stable. “These two labels are completely different,” explains Delmas, and that distinction is lost on consumers.

Wine producers are increasingly using environmentally friendly practices, such as organic viticulture and biodynamics, and do not advertise them on their labels. Wineries don’t want their product to be relegated to a corner and ignored by customers, so “only a third of wineries that have adopted certification put it on their label,” says Delmas.

Wine growers are turning to organic production and biodynamic techniques (pdf), in particular by renouncing pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, conserving water and even reserving land for biodiversity. Producers making the switch argue that their fruits have a stronger terroir or specific soil, water and climate characteristics that can impact flavor.

Grapes produced organically take a lot of work, as every weed and every insect has to be removed by hand. But wineries end up with “better grapes to work with,” says Delmas. Switching to organic grapes can increase the overall production costs of the vineyard by up to 15% in the first few years, but the costs eventually balance out. Meanwhile, that extra investment and manpower translates into a permanent price increase of 13%, as long as the wine is not labeled as organic.

“There is this disconnect between what people in the industry think and what the customer perceives,” says Delmas.

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