Let’s toast to eco-friendly grapes! A study has confirmed that eco-certified wines taste better, with previous research also showing that these wines are often cheaper than the alternatives.

Wine grapes during pigmentation in Baja California, Mexico. Photo by Tomas Castelazo.

The study looked at reviews and scores for more than 74,000 California wines from the magazines Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. They found that on a standardized 100-point scale, eco-certified wines scored an average of 4.1 points higher. The effect was larger for red wines than white wines, but regardless of the type of wine, the effect was similar.

“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, a UCLA environmental economist and professor in the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

The paper only studies California wines, but scientists expect similar results across all geo’s. Preliminary results on French wines already indicate the same things, says Delmas.

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However, while they looked at wines made with grapes from organic and biodynamic farms, their study didn’t include organic wine. The most significant difference with organic wine comes not only from how the grapes are grown, but how the wine is made. Most notably, organic wine cannot contain sulfites — an important preservative used in most wines.

Delmas hopes the research will inspire winemakers to show off their eco-certifications more boldly. A meager 1 percent of all the wines in the study were eco-certified, and you’d expect them to advertise it clearly, but they often don’t. Consumers are reportedly unwilling to pay more for the eco-certification, so producers devalue it as well.

“Wine makers say it’s better for the quality of the wine,” Delmas said. “It’s a purer taste with more sense of the terror, because when you replace pesticides with labor, 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.”

Delmas’ previous research found that winemakers don’t go for an eco-friendly product for the sake of eco-friendliness. It’s usually family farms, where the owners plan to pass the property on to their children which try their best to keep a clean environment. They don’t see it as a difference, it’s just the way they’ve always done things — hopefully, they will be able to leverage it. They’ll get to promote a superior product, and we’ll get to enjoy better wine.

The study was published in the Journal of Wine Economics.