Sour Grapes

Many people are willing to pay more for products labeled with environmentally friendly terms such as “organic.” But that may not be the case for wine, researchers have found. In fact, consumers seem to value ecolabeled wines even less than other wines.

A team discovered this trend while analyzing 13,426 California wines produced from 1998 through 2005. When grapes were certified for ecofriendly production, the resulting wines tended to receive higher quality ratings from the Wine Spectator and sold for 13 percent more. But the price increased only for wines whose green credentials weren’t advertised on the bottle. When vintners disclosed their green practices by putting eco-labels on the bottles, the price dropped by 20 percent.

Consumers may shy away from an “organic” label because they associate that term with lower-quality wine untreated with preservatives, the authors say in a paper published in Business & Society. The data, however, suggest that sustainable methods actually result in better wines. In other words, oenophiles who turn up their noses at “green” wine might be missing out. ❧
—Roberta Kwok

Delmas, M.A. and L.E. Grant. 2010. Eco-labeling strategies and price-premium: The wine industry puzzle. Business & Society DOI:10.1177/0007650310362254.

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