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They Taste Better?

“This is part of a much larger article on all things green that we are having imposed on us that is printed elsewhere, I have condensed it down to the part pertinent to the community, and though not quite as good, ‘many may think it is not good at all and that is their right’ as if I had written it from scratch I hope it conveys what I was trying to say in a wine related context. if it strays a bit forgive me as that is part of the bigger piece, and extracting the wine related part was not possible without a bit of the larger part, or I would have to have rewritten the whole thing.

An article in Drinks Business raises the organic bio dynamic approach to winemaking to a different level by quoting research? That shows…….

“Wines produced from organic or bio dynamically produced grapes do taste better, according to two separate studies analysing the scores of 200,000 wines given by independent critics in both California and France.”

You have to read the whole article to be able to form an opinion on what is contained therein

If you have read the article nowhere will you see if the wines were tasted blind, the rhetoric suggests they were not, which begs the question are the judges all jumping on the same bandwagon, organic and bio dynamic is increasingly part of the sales pitch in the food industry along with veganism and the increasing pressure from climate change activists that we should eat ever less meat and dairy products among other ‘life’ choices they have chosen for us.

When couched as ‘saving the planet’ it is easy to express an opinion that will go unchallenged so the movement gathers momentum regardless of any side effects such as increased retail cost and bigger profits for the manufacturers and even God forbid another valid and substantiated opinion, mission creep as been going on for a long time in the eco world and until recently no one dared question any aspect of it.

As every prediction in the last fifty years has failed to materialise, perhaps the movement should be ignored to a large degree rather than continually feted, not easy when vested interests with government subsidies have their foot in the door on the way to making billions.

The problem with the article is yet another example of critics being the arbiters of taste, as with all tastings they are subjective, so I find it hard to believe, unless they knew what they were tasting, to believe the results, I defy anyone to taste two decent wines blind and state categorically that one was organic or had its grapes picked under a full moon and the other was not.

There have been enough examples of research to prove that wine critics are no better than the general public at getting consistent results when tasting wine blind and that means no clues to cost origin etc., taking that into account it beggars belief that they can add 4-6% increase in rating figures for wines that are organic or/and bio dynamic, the no rise in percentage points for wines that are organically produced but do not mention the fact on the label rather gives the game away re tasting blind, and the latter bio dynamic section seems to involve a lot of what can only be described as witchcraft grafted onto organics.

“Cow horns are stuffed with manure compost and buried into the ground all through the winter, then later excavated. “please…………………or………

“Ideally, when I can, I try to harvest my grapes during fruit days; in other words, days when the moon travels in front of a constellation of fire from the zodiac calendar. For example, Lion, Aries or Sagittarius. These are more propitious days for a more expressive wine.”

Fruit is picked when it is at its best, grapes for wine are no different to any other farmed fruit, early morning for freshness, before the rains come etc, man or woman decides when that moment is, it has nothing to do with where the moon is at any given time, other than by pure coincidence, if you believe that you believe in Tarot cards, Mediums, lucky heather and rabbits feet and being able to cross the M1 blindfold during the rush hour and live.

This article from the same publication has a group of wine makers, all organic, wanting any wine that isn’t to have a label stating the fact as though it is some sort pariah wine, well they would wouldn’t they it is to their commercial advantage.

What they fail to say, as does the organic movement in general is the vast majority of pesticides and fertilisers are from organic organisms or derived from, the only thing that is wrong has been in certain areas a gross overuse of the same products, yet even now organic producers are allowed to use copper sulphites in certain cases, though to a lesser extent in Europe and still be organic.

The communities own Steve Slatcher did a very good piece on the subject a couple of years back.

I know two agronomists, one is a vineyard consultant the other is working in the more general agriculture field and both believe much, not all, of the organic movement is purely a marketing ploy.

Many of the practices that are labelled organic have been part of farming for years without the label.

As in Steve’s piece many are of the opinion that cheaper wines are only possible because large scale producers use inordinate amounts of pesticides and fertilisers, but that is no longer true as with farming in general those amounts have through legislation been reduced dramatically over recent years, it is not a claim that can be leveled at those producers any more, as much as the organic movement would like to.

Another piece here…

includes evidence that organic farming produces more Co2 which is not in line with organic thinking, yet again as the organic movement starts to get more scrutiny there is now also evidence that just maybe Co2 is not the evil it is made out to be, so we now have contradictory viewpoints.

Which is backed up by this….

Words in the context of organic are used in a way that implies that nature is part of the winemaking process ’natural’ wine gives the impression it made itself, no human being was involved in the process, that of course is nonsense, man is the reason wine exists from the beginnings to now, sustainable is another hijacked word, there is nothing sustainable about energy production using windmills, they are about the least sustainable production method of them all but that word is attached as a badge of ‘good credentials’ we have to be very wary of a movement that wants to be taken for granted on the strength of a green backed headline, there is on all levels huge amounts of public money being pumped into green technology which is hidden from public view, in the same way that ‘what is good for you’ is not to be taken at face value, it is also very good for them the producers, the truth is emerging on all fronts, but a juggernaut is not easy to stop.

By coincidence as I was putting this together the Times published an article about another research carried out by Jens Gaab whose main job is a placebo researcher at Basel University, who says he is interested in context effects, ‘if you reframe something’ what happens?

His study involved offering 150 people three different wines and asking them to rate them.

All were 2013 Italian reds but that is where the similarity ended, one was a £25 a bottle one was £8 a bottle and one La Pupille £50 a bottle.

The first tasting was blind and all came out on an equal footing re taste, some were told the £50 bottle was £8 and the £8 was a fine 25 pound wine, the results then showed the £8 wine being judged the best of the three, you can make of it what you will, similar tests have been done before and with ‘experts’ with the same results.

As Gaab says, wine companies are clever, they know that if they make wine more expensive it tastes better- and they aim for that, because it is a huge market.

Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford said the findings fitted in with a growing body of research showing that price feeds into perceptions of quality, including a study in 2008 that showed increased activation in the brains reward centres when people were told they were drinking expensive wine.

All of this can be extrapolated into the organic is better push we are seeing now, organics make people believe they are making a choice for the good and don’t mind paying for it, their comfort zone is expanded.

The Times wine critic, Jane MacQuitty defends the experts stance by saying it takes years of practice and training to sort the wheat from the chaff, yet studies with experts when tasting blind have proved to be little different from the average wine drinker.

She then attacks the promotion of wine in heavy bottles back label hype, overly ornate labeling, with gold medals galore, ah gold medals a large part of the wine critics folio of work.

She finishes with Caveat Emptor, let the buyer beware, and I thought it was the critics job to assist the general public in their decisions, obviously not.

On the matter of taste, again, the truth is not told, anyone who grows their own veg will claim rightly that the produce tastes better, it does, but not because you are following organic practices, that part has minimal effect, but because you are growing varieties that taste better but are uneconomic for the commercial grower, yes they could grow them but no one unless they were in a higher income bracket could afford them, organic produce from the same varieties that are grown commercially fetch a much higher retail price and taste the same, taste is incidental to the cause.

Much of the higher retail price, and that will apply to wine as all other foods is the extra labour involved in production, modern farming has reduced labour costs, organics increases them.

For many organics is a lifestyle choice, it is also a choice many cannot follow for financial reasons, if all goes organic many will struggle to put food on the table, the average increase over standard commercial farmed products is around 45%, some items are the same cost but not many.

The advances in vineyard management and winery production techniques has seen enormous strides made in the quality of wine production from the humble supermarket red to the Cru classed Château, but the organic gravy train is to good to not jump on, as the article says it puts retail prices up as buyers perceive the statement that a wine is organic means a better tasting product and worth the extra cost, that remains unproven but peer pressure will ensure all follow that path, but not necessarily for the reasons stated.

The trouble with the green lobby it is never enough, the zealots would have everything going back to subsistence farming if they had their way.

What we eat is under threat, meat is next in line for culling, dairy produce will follow suit, all those photos on the community pages of lovely dishes will be a thing of the past, no more cheese and of course no milk, milk has conveniently been left out of the equation but as night follows day……

And next, well alcohol is already in the sights of many, the vision of queueing for your allotted half weekly bottle of Château Gulag would be exactly what many of the green persuasion would like to see, already pricing has been added on the grounds of reducing consumption on the grounds it will enhance a healthy lifestyle, if allowed to continue this is only the start.

Organic wine production promotes an Elysian vision, horses with ploughs in vineyards makes a wonderful feelz advertising picture, any addition to the quality of the wine is purely coincidental.

After all that what do I buy, what I like is the simple answer, and that is a pretty broad church, if you take everything said that is bad about wine we all might as well drink Yellow Tail and forget everything else, that of course is not what it is about, but a more forensic and balanced view on all we are fed is not going to do any harm, a little cynicism never did any harm either, and the way to deal with all this bullshit is to buy what you like drink what you like and ignore almost everyone, as Arthur Daley would say “The world is your lobster”.


Well, two points:
-the whole “biodynamic tastes better” needs to account for confounding variables. Biodynamic or organic vineyards and producers may be more likely to have other factors (lower yields, better canopy management, better fermentation practices) that create better wine.
-Quoting climate conspiracy theories from organisations with dubious records and funding doesn’t help your argument


I’m working my way through your post, and may comment on other things later.

But here, I can say that I skim-read the paper that the thedrinksbusiness article was based, and can say that the wines WERE all tasted blind. Or at least the magazines where the scores were published claimed they were.

I also noted that the prices of the wines were not recorded. However, presumably the organic wines were on average more expensive than the others, so was it a fair comparison? The extra cost of organic production, if invested in the wines in another way, might have resulted in even better scores.

Anyway, organic farming not not soley about improving scores. But maybe you come on to that later… ?


From what I have read, most people who are known as wine experts get it wrong more than they would hope, and more tban many would expect. But I know of no research to show they are as bad as the general public.

There are also some individuals who put in a lot of work, who can perform very well. Look at the performance of some team-member in blind-tasting competitions. They are, I admit, rare exceptions.


You mean SULPHATES. They are allowed in all organic viticulture as far as I know, and are arguably worse for the environment than some modern synthetic alternatives. Environmentally-friendly viticulture should be based on evidence - not rooted in tradition


OK - I’ve nothing more to say. You have clearly made up your mind on on environmentalism.

I’d just say I don’t think it is at all as straightforward as you think - we need to keep our minds open and pay attention to ALL evidence as it emerges - not just the evidence and arguments that support the views we started with.


I would describe myself as a sceptic when it comes to biodynamics (especially the buried cow horn stuff), but I have often found at tastings that it is the biodynamic wines that have stood out. As you say, it is very likely that other factors are at play. But let’s all enjoy the best wines for what they are!


The later point where those wines that were organically produced but not labelled as such, failed totally to get the extra points the labelled ones did, would I think rather suggest they could not have been tasted blind, no way could anyone tasting know the difference unless they saw the label, it is just not feasible.
Apologies for the sulphites, but copper sulphates are used in organic farming…

There have been research based tests using the average drinker and better qualified tasters that do indeed show that given high expectations as described in this one

I don’t think I have ever described it as “straightforward” as everyone’s perceptions are different, that is what makes wine so interesting.
As for environmentalism, it is not that I do not believe in climate change or the effects, but in how it is being presented to the general public, there was a lot about that in the extended piece but I did not want to start another us and them Brexit debate on here as it is very polarising as a subject far to many people have fixed attitudes to it.
As an example the 1874 magazine arrived a couple of days ago and there is an article by Andrew Jefford where he says , quote “we will have to live with the warming we have caused” does he mean all?, if so he is plainly wrong if not I retract, but the assumption we are the cause of all climate change is not backed up by facts, we are living in a world where the climate can change quite dramatically of its own accord, there is absolutely nothing that we as humans can do about that, relatively in earths terms we had the mini ice age in Europe.

That had absolutely nothing to do with anything man contributed.
We do indeed need to keep open minds on the whole subject and that includes much of what I have included above, they are all factual references.
Man does indeed have a lot to answer for in the way he treats the world around us, but that is not the whole picture by any means.
Back on wines, my final paragraph is not exactly doom laden just an honest appraisal as I see it.
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We’ve touched on my feelings on “biodynamics” a lot of times before.

Biodynamics is a heady mix of unacknowledged racism and a dangerous level of psuedoscience. While it’s practitioners do often make high quality wine, this is down to the level of attention paid in the vineyard and winery, rather than the starsigns of the grapes and the day they’re drunk. The only useful bit about the homeopathic cow-horn is a very visceral illustration of how much it’s all a load of bullshit.

As for the OPs climate change denial, this is not a forum for that, but @Rio_Jano hit the nail on the head with the conspiracy theory comment.


Your first point is covered in the article!

Where are the climate conspiracy theories, I never expected a round of applause for this piece, that was never the point of it, but to label anyone who is not a true believer a climate denier as I think you are doing , is your right, my opinion differs for the reasons given, there are more and more scientific papers appearing from not ‘dubious organisations’ that do now show all is not as it is presented to the world, the total failure of predictions from reputable organisations and individuals would one have thought made that case for some doubt as to causation in most peoples minds?
Again as stated I did not want to stray into the climate change area without showing the whole article so I will leave that side of it as is, the wine part I stand by as shown, if it makes members think on the subject that is all it was intended to do.

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Citations please.


I am not sure that I can add any meaningful opinions but just a few points

  1. There are two separate Demeter certifications one for Biodynamic growing of vines and a separate one for winemaking. So when using the term “Biodynamic wine” the maker must have both certificates.
  2. 18 months ago I went on a wineGB tour of the Loire and we visited several organic/biodynamically certified estates. The general view that the owners expressed was that the methods resulted in healthier vines but not always that the wine tasted better.

My understanding, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that the buried cow horns full of the relevant substances create a compost, not dissimilar to gardeners who pile up their grass cuttings to make compost.

The object of biodynamics is to create an eco system. Some may consider it all hocus pocus. But some leading domaines are convinced by the process, even though they may be working blindly down a cause and effect avenue. In other words, “my vineyard is certified as Bio, my vines now appear healthier then they were before ergo it is the Bio practices that are the cause of that improvement because there can be no other explanation.”

As for tasting expertise, like any other discipline it is a matter of structured practice. But having talked to and been taught by MWs who go through the most rigorous blind tasting exams, they do openly admit to making errors about wines. Not so much in the quality but certainly in grape varieties, and trying to work out the country or region of a wine. The latter is much more difficult.


Ascertaining the virtues of a wine through tasting I think is a verifiable skill, but I was told that trying to name producer/vintage/blend/country/appellation is a parlour-trick.


That is the effect of the buried cow horn. In Biodymanics, the reason it is done is the channel the energy of the cosmos into the ground. Biodynamics is rooted (pun intended!) in Rudolph Steiner’s theosophy of “everything connected, everything in its place”, this includes progressive attitudes such as “intelligence comes from blue eyes and blond hair” with the obvious consequence of which being people with blue eyes and blond hair’s place being above those who don’t (put into his “sciencism” they’re a higher form of evolution). I do not believe for one second that Biodynamic wine makers hold these beliefs. However in the world today, a little more needs to be done to separate yourself from these sorts of things and they need to actually stand up and say so, or at the very least not (as I have heard more than one biodynamic wine producer and several prominent wine educators say) that Rudolph Steiner was a great man/brilliant philosopher/scientist.

Your comment on cause and effect is an interesting one, that gets to the root (pun still intended) of one of my big issues with Biodynamics. There’s an interesting conversation to be had about extra fertiliser (the cow horn) extra irrigation (the “homeopathic preparations”) above and beyond what is allowed in AOC rules and their impact on vine health. [edit: To go further on this, Biodynamics adds things like basalt and egg shells to the compost. Is this use of minerals from elsewhere fundamentally changing the terroir?]

Maintaining eco systems,. sustainability and health of the planet good. Mysticism, racism and woo bad.


Unrelated to my anti-biodynamics sentiment (is this even possible?!?).

Victoria Moore wrote a piece on some of the less covered pieces of that research on people changing attitudes to wine with perceived cost. While tasters did “prefer” the more expensive wine. They always ordered them correctly on price when asked about intensity and concentration of flavour.

I saw this on her Instagram, but I’d assume it was in the Telegraph sometime this weekend.


If you meant “did NOT prefer the more expensive wine”, that is often my experience. I can recognise more expensive wines, but often don’t prefer them. (At least if we are talking about wines from decent producers here - I certainly don’t like industrially produced swill designed to appeal to lowest-common-denominator tastes.)

I agree with your views on BD. At its heart it is more of an ideology or religion than anything else. There is no logic or science in it, and you either believe or you don’t.

All his views and ideas had the same dodgy intellectual grounding, and we should take that as a warning. But that said, I have seen no links between BD and modern-day racism.

So the research the original poster mentioned was a piece where people were told the price of wines as they tasted them. They took three wines. an £8ish, £16ish and £50ish bottle. Some people were told the real price and some people the order of which wine was which was changed (i.e. people were told an £8 was £50 and vice versa) and people tended to prefer the one they were told was the expensive one, regardless of which one that actually was. I’ve not read the actual research paper, so don’t know the full methodology (e.g. whether they had a control set of a similar demographic who rated the three without any knowledge of price or how similar the wines were in terms of grapes/regions et cetera). This is being used as part of the standard “experts know nothing” narrative that is pervading most fields of existence at the moment.


If experts know nothing, surely the act of finding out that experts know nothing is flawed in itself, and therefore inadmissable as evidence?

I know this country has disappeared up its own arse with opinions over facts, but at some point there must be a grain of logic, no?


Depends on whether or not it agrees with the narrative opinions I have created.


Or, in Daily Mail world, expertise is in inverse proportion to strength of opinion - the lower the amount of expertise in a field, the higher the qualification to pass judgement within it.

I learned that at the University of Life :sunglasses: