In something of a paradox in green marketing, a study of California wine prices shows that bottles carrying an eco-label tend to bring about 7 percent less at the register.
The average price for California wines with eco-labels was $37.65. By contrast, an organically certified wine without an eco-label commanded an average retail ring of $40.54, according to the study by researchers at UCLA.
The study included 13,426 wines from 1,495 California wineries, with vintages ranging from 1998 to 2005. More than 30 varietals and 25 appellations were among the wines tested.
For less expensive wines, certification and eco-labels had no impact on pricing or ratings, the study found.
But for wines costing $25 or more, an organic or “eco” tag brought down the price.
Wines made from organic grapes but not carrying an eco-label brought a 13-percent higher price than conventionally produced wines of the same varietal, appellation and year.
This may not be news to vintners, however. The study found that only a third of vintners using organically certified grapes clearly advertised so on wine labels.
“Producers of two-thirds of these wines must suspect that consumers, for whatever reason, wouldn’t appreciate the use of organically grown grapes,” said Magali Delmas, a UCLA environmental economist and the study’s lead author. “Otherwise, why would they refrain from drawing attention to this benefit on their labels?”
In a 2007 study, only 10 percent of shoppers said it was very important to buy organic in the categories of beer and wine.
That hasn’t stopped wine grape growers from adopting sustainable agriculture methods.
Abou 80 percent of the vineyard representatives participating in a 2008 survey said they used sustainable farming practices on at least part of their acreage.