Though consumers remain reluctant to spend more on wine from organic grapes, the study from University of California, Los Angeles researchers shows that in blind taste-tests professional wine reviewers give eco-certified wines higher ratings than regular wines.

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

"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," said lead author Magali Delmas, professor at UCLA.

Though researchers studied only California wines, they expect the results to apply broadly, since California produces 90 percent of the wine in the US.

The preliminary findings on a study looking at French wine show similar results, added Delmas.

The study looked at eco-certified wines, which included wine made with grapes from organic and biodynamic farms, but did not include a third kind of eco-certified wine: organic wine.

Organic wine refers not only to how the grapes were grown but also how the wine was made. Most notably, organic wine cannot contain added sulphites, an important preservative, Delmas said.

Perhaps because even the experts shy away from strictly organic wine, the reviewing magazines had only wine from organic grapes or biodynamic farms in the 74,000-bottle sample used by the study, Delmas said.

Delmas believes preservative-free organic wine, which was once known for souring quickly, may be one culprit behind consumers' unwillingness to pay more for any kind of eco-certified wine, even as wine growers and wine reviewers praise the quality of vino from organic grapes and biodynamic  farms, Delmas said.

But the misperception that all eco-certified wine is worse "is good news for consumers, because they will get higher-quality wine at a lower price," she said.

A meagre one percent 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-labeled wines are of lower quality, Delmas said.

The study was published in the Journal of Wine Economics.

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