Consumers have a polarizing relationship with eco-labeled wines. Some have jumped on the train and are roaring full steam ahead, while others see it as a fad or marketing gimmick to sell overpriced or underwhelming juice.
Researchers from UCLA and the French KEDGE Business School posed an interesting question: What do wine critics think?
Their study, entitled “Sustainable practices and product quality: Is there value in eco-label certification? The case of wine” was recently published in the journal Ecological Economics.
The two researchers drew data from three major French wine publications (Gault & Millau, Gilbert Gaillard, and Bettane Desseauve), and aggregated ratings on more than 128,000 French wines across 30 French wine experts from 1995 to 2015. The wines ranged the full price spectrum from $5 to $450.
The study divided wines into four categories: Conventional, Certified Organic, Certified Biodynamic, and uncertified sustainable wines (i.e., winery self-proclaimed sustainable wines) that the researchers labeled “Reasoned” wines.
When controlling for other factors, the researchers found that Organic wines averaged 6.2 points higher compared to Conventional or Reasoned wines. The increase was even more pronounced for Biodynamic wines, which averaged 11.8 points higher in their scores compared to Conventional or Reasoned wines. Significantly, the researchers found no uplift in scores between Conventional and Reasoned wines, suggesting that self-proclaimed sustainability doesn’t carry much weight on a critic’s palate.
Clearly these results lead to more questions than answers. For example, are Organic and Biodynamic wines over indexing because amazing French winemakers with fabulous juice (regardless of eco status) are taking the leap to eco-certification? Two obvious standouts are Chateau Pontet Canet and Domaine de la Romanée Conti that were early Biodynamic adopters. Or is there truly something special that a critic’s fine palate can distinguish in these eco wines? Whatever the answer, something is afoot and so it might be worth taking a second look at eco-certified wines before brushing them off. Happy Hunting!
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