In April, a team of researchers led by Professor Magali A. Delmas (UCLA Institute of the Environment and the Anderson School of Management) announced results of a study comparing the consumer perception versus the critical reviews of organic wines, and the results were surprising.

Delmas instigated the study after hearing repeatedly from winemakers that, although organic farming practices do, indeed, result in higher quality fruit, they believed consumers placed less value on wines labeled as such. She confirmed this bias in an independent survey, in which wine buyers indicated a ceiling of $15 for organic wines; above that price point, they wanted “real” wine.

Conversely though, after studying more than 70,000 wine reviews (written between 1998 and 2009) and cross referencing information about vintage, variety, and region with USDA and California Department of Agriculture data about organic and sustainable farming practices, the team found organic wines scored an average of 4.1 points higher than “conventional wines,” even in blind tastings.

All of which points to a marketing and messaging opportunity: If wine (and other beverage producers using organic and/or sustainable ingredients) can reset the perception of their products with consumers, prices could increase and beneficial land practices could become more widely embraced.