Organic Wines Taste Better Than Conventional, But Still Seen as Inferior 'Hippy Wine'

wine glass photo

photo: Mr. T in DC via flickr.

Organic produce and textiles may fetch a premium compared to their non-organic counterparts, are certainly better for the planet and your health, and often proudly proclaim their eco-friendly status. But when it comes to wine a new UCLA study finds that even though organic wines fare better in tastings than non-organic, if you label them such they actually command lower prices. Here's why:One Third Organic Winemakers Hide That Fact
Environmental economist Magali Delmas and colleagues looked over 13,400 wines from nearly 1500 California wineries, covering 30 varietals, 25 appellations, with vintages from 1998 though 2005.

They correlated these with each wine's rating in Wine Spectator, whether it was certified organic, and whether it was actually labelled on the bottle or the winemakers chose to not label their product as organic. In total only one-third of winemakers using third-party certified organic grapes advertised this on their bottles.

organic wine label

photo: Daniel Spiess via flickr.
Organic Wines Rate Higher, But Priced 7% Lower
For bottles under $25 the certification and labeling had no effect on price or their rating, but that changed for more expensive wines.

Once that $25 barrier was crossed, using organically grown grapes scored on average one-point higher than non-organic wines of the same vintage, appellation and varietal. Additionally, if those wines did not tout their organic credentials they fetched 13% higher prices. However, once a wine was labelled as organic, even though it still had an higher average rating, the prices got driven down 7% below their conventionally-produced counterparts.

Organic Wine Requires More Effort & Better PR
As for the higher ratings, Delmas said,

Wine made with organically grown grapes is higher quality. Growers have to devote more time and attention, and take better care of organically certified vines than conventional vines. Our results show that these efforts are apparent in the product.

As for the price/rating disparity, report co-author Laura Grant posited,

Organic wine earned its bad reputation in the 70s and 80s. Considered 'hippy wine', it tended t turn to vinegar more quickly that non-organic wine. This negative association still lingers.

Delmas added another possible motivation: "Consumers buy organically grown food because they think it is going to improve their health. That motivation doesn't go a long way with wine. If consumers want to drink something healthy, they'll reach for wheat grass, not an alcoholic beverage."

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