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  • Writer's pictureTony Elvin

Fairtrade Wine Tasting

Thank you to everyone that joined us for our Fairtrade wine tasting on the 2nd March.

Missed it? Then read on to find out details on all the wines and some fun facts.

Our last such tasting was in June 2021 for Co-op fortnight, this event is to celebrate Fairtrade fortnight, a global initiative, and one supported no more than by fairtrade flag bearers and champions Co-op. In fact Co-op are the largest seller of fairtrade wine in the world. This event is brought to you by Central England co-op who look after the bit where we live in the midlands.

But, first of all .. what is Fairtrade?

Fairtrade is a system of certification that aims to ensure a set of standards are met in the production and supply of a product or ingredient. For farmers and workers, Fairtrade means workers’ rights, safer working conditions and fairer pay. For shoppers it means high quality, ethically produced products.

Wine grape farming and wine-making are time-consuming industries, strenuous, labour-intensive. The demanding processes involved in the production of wine often lead to poor labour standards and living conditions for both small wine grape farmers and hired labourers on large plantations.

Fairtrade Standards are designed to improve employment conditions and protect the rights of workers on wine grape plantations and to support small wine grape farmers’ organisations in gaining more control within supply chains and increase their incomes.

There are 38 Fairtrade wine producer organisations worldwide, across South Africa, Chile and Argentina, representing more than 5,440 farmers and workers.

The apartheid system in South Africa limited the opportunities for economic advancement of the majority of the population and left a legacy of poor employment conditions and labour relations in the wine industry. These problems include highly unequal land distribution and a history of paternalistic labour relations, rampant alcoholism among workers, low wages, inadequate housing and labour practices which often discriminate against women.

Fairtrade Standards include payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price that aims to cover small wine grape farmers’ average costs of production. Fairtrade certified plantations must provide decent working conditions for workers and protect their rights in line with core International Labour Organisation Conventions, including the right to join a trade union and collectively negotiate their working conditions, a safe and healthy environment and no discrimination or child labour.

Wine One - Vergelgen Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa £10

An iconic South African winery, the name is Dutch for ‘situated far away’. Recently converted to Fairtrade status as part of a collab with Co-op.

Founded in 1700, the winery is ideally situated 6km away from False Bay in Stellenbosch, benefitting from the cooling Atlantic Ocean breeze. Grapes are planted between 140m-310m above sea level which also helps to retain acidity in the grape, giving you a deliciously fresh wine like this.

South Africa is the world’s fourth biggest producer of Sauvignon Blanc behind France, NZ & Chile

Aroma: Tropical flavours of passion fruit with notes of peach, green apple and pear

Palate: Bracing citrus notes, and a touch of tropical fruit

Finish: That citrus taste prolongs on the palate for a good long finish

Goes great with goats cheese, herby salads and spicy Asian dishes

  • Sauvignon Blanc is a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon (the other parent is Cabernet Franc)

  • The green flavours of Sauvignon Blanc can also be found in the red Cabernet Sauvignon

  • The 3rd May is national Sauvignon Blanc day

  • Sauvignon comes from Sauvage meaning wild, wild vines

Wine Two - Coop Fairtrade Chardonnay, Bosman Family Vineyards, Western Cape, South Africa £6

In 2008, a landmark joint venture between Bosman Family Vineyards and the Adama Workers Trust saw the formation of the biggest Black Economic Empowerment deal in the South African wine industry to date, with eligible workers receiving co-ownership of 430ha of farming land. Many of the 260 full-time workers on the estate are from 5th generation families who together own 26% of the business.

Not just content to look after their famers, in 2014, Bosman Family, in a joint venture with The Co-op renovated the Bovlei Community Preschool.

Chardonnay, is a polarising grape, not least due to its popularity in the 80’s but it remains, probably the most important grape in the world. Is planted wherever wine is made and is the second most planted grape in the world after Spanish grape Arien.

It is an important component in most sparkling wines, like Champagne, Cremant and Francicorta (posh Italian sparkling wine) but also permitted in Cava.

The grape itself is neutral, with many of the flavours associated with it coming from the terroir or production methods like oak. Hence why Chablis tastes so different to Australian oaked Chardonnay.

Aroma: Citrus and Tropical Fruits

Palate: Passion fruit and pineapple

Finish: Juicy, fruity finish

Wine Three - Fairtrade Kumala Pinotage / Shiraz / Malbec, Western Cape, South Africa £7

Great to feature a Pinotage. South Africa’s signature variety. Actually cultivated here as a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault in 1924. Bramble, earthy flavours and smoky characteristics.

Widely planted in South Africa, much of the Pinotage vines were replaced with European varieties in the early 90’s as the wine market opened up to the world following the end of apartheid. By 97 interest grew in the grape and it began to command higher prices than any other grape and has earnt its place in the world of wine.

Shiraz, also known as Syrah, is within the top 10 most planted varieties, another grape we associate with Australia but also is grown in large volumes across Chile, South Africa, New Zealand (Hawkes Bay) and California. It actually comes from France and it’s home is in the Northern Rhone (Cote Rotie / Croze Hermitage).

In cooler climates Shiraz tastes of blackberry, mint and black pepper, in warmer climates softer tannins are present with jammier fruit flavours and spice notes of licorice, anise and earthy leather. Which is more what we find in this particular wine.

Then there's that dash of Malbec and why not? A grape that hails from Bordeaux but found it's spiritual home in South America. Malbec brings flavours of black fruit and chocolate.

Aroma: Dark and red berry fruit, white pepper and mocha

Palate: Nuttiness on the palate, dark fruit and mocha

Finish: A spicy, smoky finish

Perfect BBQ wine!

Wine Four - Fairtrade Carmenere, Central Valley, Chile £6

Our final wine of the evening but first, a bit on the Chilean wine business:

There are few smallholders but the wine business is monopolised by big businesses. Not many women work in wine and if they do, it’s not at a leadership level. The Caupolican co-operative, who produce the Co-op Carmenere, have broken the mould. This winery is not only run by a woman, but the workforce is made up of 50% women too. They use the Fairtrade Premium to provide bursaries to workers for training and education and have funded a library in a primary school.

Carmenere is another Bordeaux blending grape from France. In its Bordeaux blending heyday, it could be found along with Cab Sav, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc in Medoc Bordeaux blends. Now rare in France, much like Malbec, Carmenere has found a new home in South America but for 150 years of its South American history, it had been getting grown along with and pressed together with Merlot. It was thought to be the same grape and this caused problems as it ripens 2-3 weeks later than Merlot. The end result was an overly jammy wine or an aggressively green pepper flavoured wine depending on when the grapes were harvested. Thankfully that problem has now been remedied and these grapes harvested separately at the correct time.

Aroma: Black fruits and blackcurrant

Palate: Black fruits with vanilla, oak, and chocolate

Finish: A fruity finish with a touch of cocoa


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