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Recent studies suggest wines produced from grapes grown using organic or biodynamic production methods taste better. An evaluation of independent reviews from wine critics in California and France across 200,000 samples revealed organic wines were rated higher than conventional wines not certified by a third-party organization as organic or biodynamic.
The research combines reports published in 2016 and in February of this year, using wine reviews from Gault Millau, Gilbert Gaillard and Bettane Desseauve in France and Robert Parker, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. The French critics showed more appreciation than their American counterparts, scoring wines officially recognized as organic 6.2 per cent and biodynamic-certified products 11.8 per cent higher than conventionally produced wines, which included producers claiming to operate using conscientious farming practices in line with organic producers but without third-party supervision.
Wines that are certified as organic products follow strict protocols, with accreditation awarded after a three-year assessment process. There are different regulation authorities in operation, including Demeter, Ecocert and USDA Organic. Certified products display labels or logos of the certification body, usually on the back label. While these farming and production practices aren’t new, they only started to appear on labels in the past two decades.
Specific regulations vary slightly from organization to organization, but the governing principles are that no chemical agents or synthetic materials (such as fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides) are used in the growing of the grapes. The use of additives in the fermentation process is also restricted. Notably the use of sulphites – which help to preserve freshness in wine and protect against bacteria and oxidation – is more strictly governed than what is allowed in conventional wines.
Once certified, winemakers submit to annual audits to ensure they follow the established guidelines.
These reports are a boost for fastidious wine producers who work through the demanding and costly (in terms of time and effort) certification channels. Most organic and biodynamic winemakers firmly believe their eco-certified farming practices produce better grapes, which in turn makes better wines. This report seems to validate their beliefs.
Standards for organic wine in Canada were established in 2007. Since then, there’s been slow and steady acceptance, particularly in the Okanagan where 20 per cent of the vineyards plan to be certified by the end of this year, which would rank as one of the highest proportions of certified organic vineyards anywhere in the world.