Wine for Fairtrade Fortnight…

Posted on: 02 March 2011 by Rhian Mainwaring

Pieter Rosenthal shares his take on the Fairtrade wine market and offers up his Fairtrade wine of the month 28th February 2011 marked the start of Fairtrade Fortnight so in the run up I felt it was a good reason to start checking out what the supermarkets are offering in the wine department.

We tend to look towards Fairtrade coffee, tea and chocolate and often perceive these to be better than their non-Fairtrade counterparts, and we are willing to pay a premium for them, but the Fairtrade movement goes much further than coffee and chocolates. With wine, the story seems to be a bit less clear. The perception seems to be of wine made by large cooperatives of varying quality but certainly not worth any premium. Or at least, that seemed to be the case in the past. Have things changed?

So let’s look at what Fairtrade is to the wine market. The advantages are pretty straightforward, the wines we see on our shelves are by and large from three countries, South Africa, Argentina and Chile. Fairtrade is about achieving fairness on a number of areas such as workers’ pay, working conditions, better prices and sustainability, not only environmentally but also in the pricing strategy, trade prices should never fall lower than market price for example. This addresses some of the issues of conventional trade, which can undermine the poorest producers. Fairtrade producers can work on various schemes, such as providing good quality living accommodation on farms, providing education to the workers’ children, shared ownership and even retirement homes for their workers.

When I started thinking about this column the idea was to taste as much wine from the Fairtrade ranges as possible, but it even surprised me how extensive this range has become. So for the purpose of this I only looked at what supermarkets are offering as part of their own labels. The Coop, always a bit of a front runner when it comes to Fairtrade, still has a very extensive range, with particularly strong offerings from Argentina and South Africa. Sainsbury’s was another retailer with a pretty good selection of Fairtrade wines under their own label, also particularly from South Africa. At Tesco I only found one white and one red wine in their own label range both of which were from Argentina and Asda didn’t have any. Although both supermarkets do offer Fairtrade wines from a variety of producers such as Stellar Organics, Fairhills and Six Hats though.

Ultimately the proof is in the wine and having sampled a large selection, by and large I was quite impressed with the offering from the Coop. The wines are dependable, particularly those from Argentina. Sainsbury’s is the other supermarket offering a fairly extensive selection from South Africa with some more premium products in the ‘Taste The Difference’ range .It was a tough job having to pick just one but my money goes to a South African Chenin Blanc this month.’s Taste The Difference Fairtrade Wild Valley Chenin Blanc 2010
Wellington, South Africa

Sainsbury’s - £7.99 (reduced to £5.99 until 22nd March)

New to Sainsbury’s list is this expressive Chenin Blanc produced by the Bosman Family Vineyards. A ripe, tropical nose showing pineapple and guava. Lovely and clean on the palate with zesty citrus fruit and fresh apples. Very refreshing and lively. At £5.99 this is a great value white with the same producer also behind the Cabernet Sauvignon in this range. It’s a couple of pounds more expensive but it is a good, expressive red wine.

By: Pieter Rosenthal for

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