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Dissecting The “Organic” Wine Stigma

Wine
06.16.2010

Organic Wine Label

Ever since its emergence in the market place back in the ’70s, organic wines have been receiving mixed emotions amongst consumers and wine geeks alike. As a culture, we are becoming more and more concerned with the environment and the products in which we consume. Local, sustainable, green, organic – these are no longer buzz words, but a part of our daily life.

Shop local. Eat local. Drink local.

But when it comes to the wine world, there is a fine line between investing in the environment and investing in a fine beverage. Unlike other industries where people are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products, organic wines still evoke a significant amount stigma in the wine industry. Wines labeled as organic are not always perceived as being higher in quality and often deter people from purchasing them.

When it comes to eco-friendly vino, consumer purchasing trends vary based on price. Two University of California researchers studied 13,426 wines from 1,495 of the state’s wineries, focusing on vintages from 1998 to 2005. They looked at each wine’s rating in Wine Spectator magazine and noted (a) whether it was made with organically grown grapes, and (b) whether that fact was noted on the label.

They found that neither certification nor labeling impacted pricing or ratings cheaper wines — those selling for under $25 a bottle. But when it came down to the more expensive wines, labels greatly influenced both pricing and purchasing behaviors.

Some consumers stigmatize organic wine, dismissing it as an inferior product,” writes economists Magali Delmas of UCLA and Laura Grant of University of California, Santa Barbara.

Across the board, wines made from organic grapes rated an average of one point higher on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale than those made from conventionally grown grapes. This statistic makes sense since growers of organic grapes “have to devote more time and attention and take better care of organically certified vines than conventional vines, and our results show that these efforts are apparent in the product,” – Laura Grant.

However, regardless of having a higher score or higher quality product, the word “organic” significantly impacts pricing structure of eco-friendly wines. Organically produced wines without mention on the label were 13 percent higher in cost than conventionally produced wines of the same variety, appellation and year. Prices for wines that stated “organic” on the label were 7 percent lower than the conventional wines.

So although there is an argument that organically produced wines are higher in quality, the mere word “organic” is still considered taboo for wine labels. Which is cool by me, since it means that I can buy a high-quality wine at an affordable price. So until organic labeled wines lose the stigma and finally make it into the “in crowd,” I have no qualms with buying them for a fraction of the price they deserve. Good cheap conscientious wines for the win.



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