Fair Trade That Offers More Than Good Intentions | wine

Taste the Difference, Fair Trade, South Africa’s Chenin Blanc, Wellington, South Africa 2022 (£8, Sainsbury’s) It has now been 30 years since Fairtrade was launched in the UK, and 25 years since Fairtrade International emerged as the umbrella organization for fair trade initiatives around the world – time for opinions to harden on the question of how much force for fair trade. They are branded products. Depending on where you sit on the political spectrum, Fairtrade falls somewhere between the Melquitast response, the sticky plaster of the sheer evil of global trade and a disturbing prime example of excessive wakefulness in corporate affairs. There is not enough space or expertise available in this column to discuss all the complex and intertwined issues of fair trade and sustainability raised by fair trade, but I would say that my experience visiting fair trade wine trade projects, in South Africa and Argentina, has left me feeling initiative (at least in These cases) was much better than nothing. And that paying a little extra on a well-made Fairtrade wine like the bright-fruited Cape White from Sainsbury is a net positive for all involved.

El Esteco Finca Notables Malbec Fairtrade, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina (£22, The Co-op) A curious feature about Fairtrade wine was that it didn’t have the same character as Fairtrade-approved products found in other parts of the supermarket. From very early on, chocolate, coffee, and to a lesser extent tea—to give three of the most obvious examples—managed to gain a reputation for being better quality than their non-fair trade compliant counterparts. It had the happy effect of justifying a fair trade premium regardless of any political and ethical considerations, something Fairtrade wine could never do. This failure, if this is the case, almost certainly has something to do with the fact that fair trade is largely focused on the global south, while the production of high-quality wine, unlike cocoa, coffee, and tea, is primarily located in Europe, the United States, and Oceania. It’s a bold move, then, by The Co-op to offer what it calls “the most exclusive fair trade wine ever by a UK retailer”. It’s a bold wine too, a northern Argentine malbec that’s chunky, rich and nice, if we confine our attention to what’s in the glass, that justifies its price.

Aconi Tilting Tree Sauvignon Blanc, Puhoi, Moldova 2021 (£6, The Co-op) Co-op has long been the largest retailer of fair trade wine in the UK, and its wine division has also been prominent in dealing with other issues of ethical and sustainable sourcing. Among its most interesting initiatives is the addition of a pair of wines from Asconi, a large producer in Puhoi in Moldova. In the novel The Co-op, the inclusion of Asconi wines seems to have a similar logic to Fairtrade: They are good products in every sense of the word. I thought the wines themselves (there’s Tilting Tree merlot as well as sauvignon blanc) were good expressions, drinkable of the grape varieties at an affordable price. But it is Asconi’s involvement in housing more than 1,000 families across the border in Ukraine that will give the bottle purchase an extra dimension. The cooperative is not alone in supporting Ukraine with Moldovan wine. Online and direct sales giant Laithwaites has climbed its listings for its two high-performing Moldovan homes, Château Varetley and Albastrele, both of which have also been active in housing and supporting refugees since the invasion in February.

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