With Fairtrade Fortnight getting under way today, Christine Austin looks at wines with a moral edge.

While we all positively choose Fairtrade bananas, chocolate and coffee, when it comes to wine there is sometimes a degree of hesitation. Will it be good quality? Will it cost more than the flavour deserves? And anyway, does the Fairtrade premium actually get back to the people who need it?
Fairtrade Fortnight starts on Monday so now is a good time to review what Fairtrade wine is, what is does, and whether you should make a point of trying it.
In most parts of the world the system of grape growing and turning those grapes into wine is governed by the simple economics of supply and demand. But there are some regions, in particular in South Africa and Argentina, where workers just don’t earn enough to make ends meet. The way Fairtrade operates is that farmers work together and a minimum price is paid for the crop. In addition, there is a premium which goes straight back to the community, as funding for a long-term project.
These projects can be as life changing as a clean water supply, as provided for the people of Tilimuqui in north-west Argentina, where 400 families grow grapes organically to supply the local co-operative, La Riojana. Since they became a certified Fairtrade supplier 10 years ago they have built a school that now accommodates 337 children. It specialises in agricultural studies, and so the quality of farming will improve.
This is typical of the various projects I have seen, in particular in South Africa where Fairtrade has enabled communities to improve their lives. I have visited several Fairtrade projects in the last few years and found them all to be inspiring, and in some cases tear-inducing. Nurseries, pre-schools, healthcare centres, computer rooms and old people’s communities have been set up and are in daily use across various regions.
Fairtrade Fortnight logos - thumbnailObviously we would all wish that various governments could provide what is needed but in remote rural communities, sometimes this just doesn’t happen. Fairtrade fills this gap and enables people to live on the land and allows their children to grow into useful, educated people.
Sales of Fairtrade wine are rising, with the UK being one of the most important markets, and the quality has increased dramatically over the last few years.
One of my favourite Fairtrade producers is Bosman in South Africa where the family who have owned the estate since 1798 decided to put one-third of the estate’s vineyards and their wine brands into a trust for the 260 farmworkers who live on the estate. Now the workers share ownership of the farm under the name of one of the longest-serving employees, the Adama Apollo Workers’ Trust. As with most of these projects it is the school that provides the most fundamental change.
“We worked out that the first five years is the most vital for child development,” said Neil Buchner who took me around the estate. “So the children of the farmworkers, and others in the area, come to us for the day. They play, they learn, they eat and they get health checks.” Some older children do music, some do sport. One girl went to the Commonwealth Games; another went to university.
You can try Bosman wines under Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference label, on offer for Fairtrade Fortnight. South African Chenin Blanc 2015 (£8 down to £6) is a classic, rounded Chenin, with streaks of lime, honeysuckle and ripe apple fruit. Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2014 (£8 down to £6) has ripe, rounded cassis fruit, with a touch of chocolate and spice. Trade up to Bosman Adama Red 2014, a dark, peppery Shiraz Mourvèdre that is perfect on a cold winter evening (Majestic down from £12.49 to £11.99, and £9.99 on a mix- six deal).
At Marks & Spencer the range known as Six Hats has been developed for Fairtrade wines. These come from the Citrusdal cellars working with Fairtrade communities and the sale of these wines has allowed them to develop a farm creche and a pre-school classroom. Six Hats Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (normally £8, down to two bottles for £12 from March 8) is a lively, zesty, gooseberry-flecked wine, while the Shiraz 2015 is full of juicy, red berry fruit with top notes of spice.
This year Fish Hoek went Fairtrade. Owned by Accolade, the world’s largest wine company, it has already invested heavily in school projects in the Cape, but now all the grapes are sourced from Fairtrade producers. Try the lively, fresh-tasting Sauvignon Blanc 2015 or the rounded, plummy fruit of Fish Hoek Shiraz 2015, both down from £7.99 to £5.99 until March 15.
One of the most ardent supporters of Fairtrade wine is the Co-op which was the first retailer to stock a range of wines from Fairtrade producers. Top wines include Truly Irresistible Malbec 2013 (£6.99) and Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, both from Tilimuqui in Argentina.
These wines don’t just taste good; they do good too – try them.

About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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