Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

For California vintners, it's not easy being green

05.03.2010
"Green" labels do not pack the same wallop for California wines that they do for low-energy appliances, organically grown produce and other environmentally friendly products, but it's not because there's anything wrong with the wine, a new UCLA-led study has found.
In fact, wines made with organically grown grapes actually rate higher on a widely accepted ranking, said Magali Delmas, a UCLA environmental economist and the study's lead author. And these wines tend to command a higher price than their conventionally produced counterparts, so long as wineries don't use the word "organic" on their labels.

But when wineries do use eco-labels, prices plummet.

"You've heard of the French paradox?" quipped Delmas, associate professor of management at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and the UCLA Anderson School of Management. "Well, this is the American version. You'd expect anything with an eco-label to command a higher price, but that's just not the case with California wine."

The anomaly points to a marketing conundrum for environmentally friendly vintners and a buying opportunity for oenophiles, say Delmas and her co-author, Laura E. Grant, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental science and management at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"Wine made with organic grapes — especially if it has an eco-label — is a really good deal," Grant said. "For the price of conventional wine, you get a significantly better quality wine."

The findings appear in the current issue of the peer-reviewed scholarly journal Business and Society, the official organ of the International Association for Business and Society. The organization is devoted to research on corporate social responsibility and sustainability issues.

Delmas, an economist and sociologist by training, specializes in analyzing incentives that induce companies to engage in environmentally beneficial practices. Grant, also an economist, is married to a sommelier.

The researchers studied 13,426 wines from 1,495 California wineries. Vintages ranged from 1998 to 2005, and more than 30 varietals and 25 appellations were represented.

First, Delmas and Grant tracked down each wine's rating from Wine Spectator, a prominent wine publication. Then they tabulated the number of wines made with grapes that had been certified by a third party as organically grown, a grueling and expensive process that obligates the vineyard to devote considerably more time and effort to cultivating grapes than conventional agricultural methods, which rely on chemical herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers.

The researchers also looked at whether wineries chose to label their certified wines as organically grown or whether they chose to keep their efforts to themselves.

Certification and eco-labels had no impact on pricing or ratings for cheaper wines, the researchers found. But using organically grown grapes proved be a double-edged sword for wines that cost more than $25.

So long as they didn't carry eco-labels, these wines commanded a 13-percent higher price than conventionally produced wines of the same varietal, appellation and year. Their ratings on Wine Specator's 100-point scale, in which wines tend to range between the mid-50s and high 90s, were also higher. Wines made from organically grown grapes averaged one point higher than their conventionally produced counterparts.

While the higher Wine Spectator scores still prevailed when producers slapped eco-labels on their bottles, the financial rewards for going to the trouble of making certified wine evaporated. The "made from organically grown grapes" label not only wiped out the price premium for using certified grapes but actually drove prices 7 percent below those for conventionally produced wines, the researchers found.

The average price for a wine with an eco-label was $37.65. By contrast, a certified wine without an eco-label commanded an average price of $40.54.

While the researchers don't have an easy explanation for the price drop associated with eco-labeling, they aren't stumped when it comes to the higher price that certified wines are able to commend.

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

In addition to being less pure, grapes grown with pesticides, herbicides and inorganic fertilizers interfere with a vine's ability to absorb naturally occurring chemicals in soil, according to vintners quoted in the study. As a result, wines made with organically grown grapes are more likely absorb these chemicals, which are said to provide the distinctive flavor of the site where the grapes were grown — a wine's much-prized "terroir."

Still, the researchers believe vintners will be surprised at the magnitude of the impact that certification has on price and quality. Delmas and Grant suspect that the price-penalty associated with eco-labels will be less surprising for vintners. In their study, the researchers found that only one-third of vintners using organically certified grapes advertised the fact 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," Delmas said. "Otherwise, why would they refrain from drawing attention to this benefit on their labels?"

As for the reasons that eco-labels drive down prices, the researchers have a number of theories. Many have to do with confusion in consumers' minds over the difference between wine made with organically grown grapes and organic wine, which is made without the benefit of such chemical preservatives as sulfites. Preservatives can be used in certified wine.

"Organic wine earned its bad reputation in the '70s and '80s," Grant said. "Considered 'hippie wine,' it tended to turn to vinegar more quickly than non-organic wine. This negative association still lingers."

Even today, the absence of sulfites reduces the shelf-life of organic wines, making them less stable, the researchers said.

"Without added sulfites, the wine turns into vinegar after a while, and you're likely to lose out on the opportunity for your wine to mature into something considerably richer than when purchased, which is the promise of fine wine," Delmas said. "So while no-sulfites-added is fine for white wines such as Chardonnay that you usually drink 'young,' it is not good for a red wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon that you want to keep to drink in a year or two."

Moreover, the benefits of wine from organically grown grapes may not be as clear to consumers as the benefits from other environmentally friendly products. Researchers who have looked into the motives of consumers of green products have found that benefitting the environment is only one incentive, and probably not the strongest one. Generally, green consumers are primarily motivated by some kind of personal benefit.

"Consumers buy organically grown food because they think it is going to improve their health," Delmas said. "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."

That all could change once consumers realize that wine made with organic grapes actually holds the prospect of another compelling personal benefit: a better-tasting product.

"Vintners and regulators really need to communicate better what wine with organically grown grapes means and the potential impact on quality," Delmas said. "I don't think they've done that, and I think it's too bad. It's a real missed opportunity."

For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.

Meg Sullivan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucla.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Alkaline soil, sensible sensor
03.08.2017 | American Society of Agronomy

nachricht New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New gene catalog of ocean microbiome reveals surprises

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

AI implications: Engineer's model lays groundwork for machine-learning device

18.08.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>