Pesticides distort the taste of wine

A french scientist and a chef have published a book about their experiment to discover how pesticides distort the taste of wine

Do pesticides distort wine’s taste? If so, how do you recognise the taste? Gilles-Éric Séralini, professor and researcher at the University of Caen, a specialist in pesticides and GMOs, and Jérôme Douzelet, a passionate chef describe their method in their recently published book (only in French at the moment)

They set out to characterise the taste of pesticides to help people to recognise the signs in their wine. In April 2017, they chose sixteen sets of organic and non-organic wines with comparable characteristics (terroirs, grape varieties, years). They analysed them for pesticide residues. 89% of the non-organic wines were contaminated with one to six pesticides. These sets were blind tasted by a group of taste professionals (including celebrity chefs) and asked their preference. 77% voted for the organic wine in the set.

Each active pesticide found in the wines was diluted in water at the same dose as was found in the wine. The pesticided water was tasted and the impressions collated with the feedback on the wines. The result was a series of eleven cards at the back of the book outlining the taste and sensations experienced for each pesticide. Boscalid  a fungicide used for strawberry, raspberry, asparagus, carrots and vines creates sensations “drying in the mouth” and “sticky on the palate”. Its toxicity is low but it can affect the liver and the thyroid and is a possible carcinogen. Read the link for the detailed US EPA results of lab testing on rats, dogs, rabbits and more – see page 9 ‘“suggestive evidence of carcinogenicity, but not sufficient to assess human carcinogenic potential”. Now that makes me feel really safe.

I don’t think the link between the presence of pesticides and taste in wine has never been studied in this way so this is a real breakthrough. I’m feeling vindicated since I usually pick up whether a wine is organic or not tasting blind because of what I describe as ‘a deadness in the mid palate’. These guys have come up with something much more precise.

One of the participants was grand Chef – Marc Veyrat – known for his 3 star Michelin organic farm and auberge in France (and his black hat). Heavy weights like him getting behind research like this and taking it further is good news for us all.

If you find this illuminating please share this article. Do you pick up taste differences between organic and non-organic wine? I would also appreciate comments/ your experiences.

See our series on why organic. Come and learn more about organic farming with a visit to Chateau Feely in South West France ; stay with us or do a multi day course or multi day tour . You can read about the story of our organic farm the series includes three books Grape ExpectationsSaving our Skins and Glass Half Full by Caro Feely. Join our mailing list to receive our seasonal newsletter, wine school, events, wine pairing, recipes and more info on this topic at the bottom right of this page.

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