06 May, 2009

Are you a "socially-conscious" wine drinker? - Fair Trade Certified Wines

Are you a “socially-conscious” wine drinker?

If you are not sure take the quiz. Please choose the number of the response that best fits you:

When it comes to drinking wine:
1.I drink it out of anything from a glass bottle to a tetra-pak to a plastic cup or even a styrofoam cup. Just give me my wine, dammit.
2.I always recycle my bottles, corks and screwcaps.
3.I cannot enjoy imported wines knowing the cost of the "carbon footprint" of transporting them.
4.I wonder how the vineyard laborers are treated in the countries producing wine.

Well, guess what. If you chose #4 you just might be a socially-conscious wine drinker. If you chose 2 or 3 you are an environmentally-conscious wine drinker and if you chose #1, well, you just might be an environmentally- and socially-challenged wine drinker...

As Earth Day dawns upon us every April 22nd, I begin to look at my eco-habits closely. Do I recycle enough? Do I buy products that are “earth-friendly?” Just how big is my carbon footprint? How much organically-grown products do I consume? And how much does all this really matter. Yeah, I ve got a lot on my mind...and yeah, I do look for organic wines. But I recently found some wines labeled as “Fair Trade Certified” and I had to try them, figuring they must be "earth-friendly."

First of all, who knew that wines could be Fair Trade Certified? Coffee and chocolate yes, but wine? Apparently there is a large market in the UK for these types of wines and the US is slowly following suit. The wines that are certified come from South Africa, Argentina and Chile.

The TransFairUSA is a non-profit U.S. agency in charge of certifying Fair Trade products. Basically, this certification guarantees certain rights for the vineyard laborers including:

• Fair and safe labor conditions, freedom of association, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.
• Community development funds to invest in the future of their farms and families.
• A minimum floor price per kg of grapes
• A premium for certified organic grapes per kg of grapes
• The prohibited use of harmful agrochemicals and GMOs in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations. (from www.transfairusa.org)

Many large US retailers have begun carrying these wines such as Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and Target. In fact I found the Wandering Grape line of Fair Trade Certified wines at Target. Other wineries include Fairhills and Neu Direction. Honestly, more US retailers need to get with the program of selling Fair Trade Certified Wines. According to Transfair USA:

• Sales of Fair Trade Certified products have grown dramatically. Between 2001 and 2006, there was a 53% average annual growth rate for all Fair Trade Certified products in the U.S.
• US retail value of Fair Trade Certified products is over $730 million and projected to be $2.25 billion by 2012.1

Well, I hope Trader Joe's is listening!

Tasting Notes
Wandering Grape 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz South Africa Alcohol 13.75%
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Shiraz retails for $12.99
medium ruby color; red fruit and black pepper from the Shiraz, herbal notes from the Cab. On the palate: smokey notes along with lush finish with a medium linger balanced acidity and firm tannins, very fruit forward. You know how South African wines can have that smokey, burnt rubber taste? Well, this wine improved the second day as the smokiness evaporated.
This wine comes from the Du Toitskloof Winery of the Western Cape. Thanks to the Fair Traide certification the laborers of this winery have benefited from programs such as daycare, adult literacy programs, community sports leagues and acquiring computers.

I liked the wine and found it to be tasty with my Buffalo Burger, yet drinkable on its own. 3.5 out 5 stars

Wandering Grape 2007 Merlot/Malbec Mendoza Argentina 13% alcohol
60% Malbec, 40% Merlot retail $12.99
This deep garnet red blend has a fruity nose of plum and blueberry plus notes of mocha, leather and anise. It has bright acidity,firm tannins and a long linger on the palate. The grapes for this wine come from 4 different vineyards in the Mendoza region of Argentina.

The taste of this wine improved as I ate it with my roasted veggie pizza. Have it with food. 3 out 5 stars.

I guess every glass you drink really does matter. It matters how we treat the Earth when farming, and how we transport goods across the globe. And it matters that vineyard laborers are being treated with justice and equality. So why not drink some good wine and support some good causes??? It just feels (and tastes) good.


Anonymous said...

While it is true that there is market for fairtrade wine here in the UK, it got huge press in the beginning but there were a few bad apples in the bunch and now it's kind of there but I'm still leery. I hear the Co-op does good ones but for my money, I'm going with what I know is good. Still might give fairtrade a go but not my first choice. S. Africa is supposedly doing some good fairtrade stuff now.

Xandria said...

Thanks, winesleuth for telling us about the "reality" of these wines on the "other side of pond." Hopefully better wines and producers will come along...

Glass Bottles said...

Great article for these environmentally wiser times. I usually enjoy the wine straight from the bottle.