.image via Certified International
You’ve heard of the French Paradox? You can call this the Napa Valley Paradox.
Organic tends to cost more than its conventional counterparts. It’s true for produce and dairy, meats and cleaning products. But when ‘organic’ appears on a wine label, it actually commands a lower price.
Organic grapes bring a lot to the table.
Wine making is a dirty business of diesel-burning farm equipment, carbon dioxide fumes from fermentation, and heavy glass bottles that get shipped by air, land and sea. Conventional grape-growing can also involve pesticides, insecticides, and petrochemical fertilizers. More and more growers are adhering to organic and sustainable practices, but two-thirds of them are choosing not to bottle their wines with identifying labels.
There are a number of theories that attempt to explain the stigmatizing effect of eco-labeling.
Some think that the reputation of the first organic wines from the 1970’s is lingering in the minds of consumers. Many of these early efforts were just not very good, often made by fledgling winemakers who were focused more on the environmental mission than on viticulture.
Then there’s the issue of sulfites. Without the addition of these chemical preservatives, most wine is unstable, turning to vinegar before it can fully mature. Add them, and the wine can not be labeled ‘organic,’ although the grapes can still be identified as ‘organically grown.’
It seems clear that the benefits of sustainable wine making are not adequately conveyed to consumers—so much so that most adherents choose to refrain from drawing attention to the practices on their labels. Perhaps vintners need to communicate the most compelling benefit: a better-tasting product.
Greenopia rates the sustainability practices of U.S. wineries. The ratings are based on transportation, growing practices, transportation, building logistics, and packaging. This year, for the first time, two wineries took the top rating of four leaves.
Read the complete UCLA study: Eco-Labeling Strategies and Price-Premium: The Wine Industry Puzzle.