Healthy soil biome and revised strategies key to sustainability and better tasting wine

As two separate studies suggest organic wines taste better, winegrowers are looking to science when it comes to protecting soil microbes and vineyards of the future.

According to a new study published in the journal of Ecological Economics organic wines do taste better.

Researchers from the UCLA Institute of the Environment and the KEDGE Business School in Bordeaux analysed reviews of some 128,000 wines produced in France and found that those which are certified as organic or biodynamic drew higher scores from critics.

The study, 'Sustainable practices and product quality: Is there value in eco-label certification? The case of wine', follows previous research by the pair into the Californian market in 2016, where analysis of 74,000 wines again saw organic grapes again scoring higher.

So as consumers gravitate towards organic produce and viticulturists look to preserve vineyards for future generations, winegrowers are turning to science to ensure healthy ecosystems as they battle elevated temperatures, drought and historic ways of farming which have left many regions with stressed soils that are lower in nutrients. 

For many this involves a complete rethink around soil strategies for protecting the biome, as science begins to rewrite old chapters on soil management and past practices such as tilling of the soil. Furthermore, there is mounting evidence to suggest that disturbing the soil in this way only adds stress to vineyard ecosystems already battling the effects of climate change. Perhaps rather unsurprisingly we now know that soil is formed of a rich tapestry of evolutionary individual layers that are better off being left as they are, as winemakers switch to other methods, such as cover crops, to improve microbial diversity. 

As Michelle Williams notes for Wine Enthusiast, winegrowers are learning that soil microbes play a ‘monumental role’ in both vine health and quality, as scientists turn their attention to the microorganisms living in the soil. 

‘Great wine starts in the vineyard, presenting a unique taste of time and place defined by sun, sky and soil,’ she adds.