Organic Wine Has A Public-relations Problem

Posted: May 18, 2017



Like time travellers and Yogi Berra’s mind-bending witticisms, organic wine seems stuck in a paradox. It keeps growing in popularity, yet most consumers are disinclined to pay more for it. In fact, in the case of highly rated wines, those that are explicitly labelled organic often fetch lower prices versus comparable-quality cuve?es made via conventional means.

That apparent organic price “penalty” is a key upshot of a recent study conducted by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Researcgers tracked more than 400 premium Tuscan red wines that were produced by 50 wineries between 2000 and 2008 and sold through online retailers in the Italian and American markets. (Narrow though the data set was, the study was designed to have statistical relevance beyond just Tuscan wines.)

To rule out sticker-price differences that could be attributed to differences in hedonistic wine quality, the researchers, led by former graduate student Lane Abraben, used a complex economic model that factored in published reviews by such tastemakers as Wine Spectator magazine and in uential critics Robert Parker and Steven Tanzer.


Oddly, of the bottles produced organically but not labelled as such (a common practice in the premium-wine sector, where many producers believe the designation carries a hippie stigma), consumers were often willing to pay more than they would for standard wines. This is presumably because such wines are, in many cases, associated with higher critical scores. But when it came to bottles branded as organically certified, another picture emerged. It seems the organic boast did indeed act as a turnoff, in many cases driving down prices that wineries were able to fetch.

Published last month in the journal Food Policy, the results stand in contrast to the general grocery marketplace, where consumers typically pay more for items that have been certified organic. In Italy, for example, surveys have shown that shoppers are willing to fork out anywhere between 10 to 40 per cent more for such products, while in the United States the premium ranges as high as 60 per cent. This seems justi ed given the generally higher cost of farming without quick-fix chemicals.

The Florida findings might seem especially odd coming at a time when demand for – or at least the supply of – wines produced without resorting to artificial pesticides and fertilizers is booming. Globally, the market is projected to grow by more than 10 per cent annually between 2017 and 2021, according to a new report by London-based market-research firm Technavio.

And organic wines have vastly improved from the generally dull, oxidized plonk of the 1980s. They even tend to garner higher scores from certain critics than standard wines, according to a joint American-French study I reported on last year (though many such wines are not explicitly labelled organic).

But I guess a lot of health-conscious and environmentally sensitive people would rather spend less on organic wine in order to save cash for important items like organic frozen waffles and GMO-free cheese puffs.

The wines below are all made from organically farmed grapes. Try one if you feel so inclined. If you’d rather not, don’t worry. As Yogi Berra might say, nobody’s going to stop you.

By BEPPI CROSARIOL May 15, 2017 Source: The Globe and Mail



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