And now, it seems those bearded, braless, Mother Earth-lovin' hippy types were right about natural wine, too. A new study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has found that wine made with organic grapes—also known as eco-friendly, and sustainable wine—is rated by experts as tasting better than that produced using conventional methods.
Lead author of the study and UCLA environmental economist Magali Delmas analysed reviews of 74,000 wines in publications including Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate. The wines came from nearly 4,000 different wineries and were of varying age and type. Only 1 percent of the wineries in the sample were certified as organic.
READ MORE: What Exactly Is 'Sustainable' Wine?
Each publication performs blind tastings, so there's no way for the wine experts to know which are organic. The experts rate wines between one and 100, with most falling somewhere above 80.
When Delmas and her team compared the scores of similar types of wine, they found that those produced with organic grapes scored an average of 4.1 points higher than their standard counterparts.
Although there are no official global standards for organic wine, the term is usually given to wine grown in an ecologically responsible manner without pesticides or preservatives.
As the LA Times notes—unlike almost all other food and drink items—plastering the "organic" label on wine is off-putting for many consumers. A 2015 study found that wine-buyers only choose organic wines over conventional ones when the latter are believed to be from a low quality wine region. Many food and drink experts including Jay Rayner have also voiced their distaste for wines produced without chemicals.
Speculating as to why organic wines rated better in the study, Delmas pointed to biochemistry. She said that pesticides reduce the amount of microbes in soil, meaning that regional characteristics are not transferred to grapes, resulting in less interesting flavours.
University of California, Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology professor Kaan Kurtural said that the difference in quality could be also down to the fact that organic grape vines produce less fruit than conventional grapevines, meaning the canopies are thinner and those grapes that do grow have greater access to sunlight. This allows for more "fruit forward" flavours like cherry.
So, next time you reach for the wine list, don't be a square—go for the au naturel choice.