Despite Perceptions, Eco-Friendly Wines May Taste Better

Megan Daley reported earlier this month at the Los Angeles Times Online that, “Next time you’re looking for a tasty wine pairing, skip the reds, whites and rosés and just go for the green.

An analysis of more than 74,000 wines found that those made with certified organic grapes got higher ratings from experts than those produced using conventional methods.”

The article stated that, “Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley and the rest of California produce 90% of the wine made in America, according to the National Assn. of American Wineries. Last year, the Golden State had 550,000 acres of vineyards. Only about 2% of them grew organic grapes, which are raised in ways that limit the use of synthetic pesticides and emphasize the importance of a healthy and sustainable ecosystem.

“In most aisles of the grocery store, ‘organic’ is seen as synonymous with ‘higher quality.’ Organic apples cost about 30% more, on average, and organic milk carries a hefty 72% markup, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show.”

Interestingly, Ms. Daley pointed out that, “But when it comes to wine, an ‘organic’ label is often a turn-off. In a 2015 study that asked consumers to select a wine based on its label, organic options were chosen over conventional ones only when the wines were from a region believed to produce low-quality wine. When considering wines from a high-quality region, however, consumers chose the conventional option, even if it had a higher price.”

The article added that, “But it turns out the experts see — and taste — things differently.

“[Magali Delmas, an environmental economist at UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability] and her colleagues gathered reviews from Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast for tens of thousands of wines produced between 1998 and 2009. The vino came from 3,842 wineries and varied by region, age and type. Only 1% of the wineries in the sample were certified organic.

“Each publication performs blind tastings and assigns a score between 1 and 100, with most falling somewhere above 80. There’s no way for taste-testers to know whether the wine they’re sampling is organic.

“When the researchers compared the scores of wines of similar vintages and varietals, they found that wines produced from certified organic grapes scored 4.1 points higher, on average, than wines made with conventional grapes.”

The L.A. Times article also noted that, “There could be a biochemical explanation for this, Delmas said. Conventional grape-growing practices use pesticides that can reduce the tiny microbes in soil. In contrast, vineyards that follow organic practices may be allowing more of the regional characteristics to get into their bottles.”

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