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Promoting fair trade

01 November 2013


IT IS wonderful how quickly you can find information on your computer. I have now discovered the word aestivate, which means "to lie dormant during the summer", and this is what much of the wine trade does. Come the beginning of September, however, the season of tastings begins with a vengeance.

This year we had a newcomer, The Beautiful South, and this brought together under one roof the wines of Argentina, Chile, and South Africa. These are the three countries that produce all the Fairtrade wines that I know of that are on sale on the British market.

In a difficult time for the wine trade, one ray of light has been Fairtrade wines. During 2012, the equivalent of almost 12 million bottles of Fairtrade wine were sold on the British market. While almost every chain of coffee shops sells fairly traded coffee, almost no chains of restaurants sell fairly traded wine; their consumption is almost entirely at home, and most of the sales come through the big supermarket chains.

Apparently, there are now 47 wineries in the three countries accredited for Fairtrade wines, and, by buying what they offer, we are able to make a small donation, while at the same time getting some pleasure. The Co-op has 19 Fairtrade wines; Sainsbury's has 15; Tesco, four.

I enjoy red wines from Argentina, and my favourite wine on the day came from La Riojana, said to be the largest co-operative cellar in South America. This was the Tilimuqui Organic Cabernet/Bonarda 2013. The 2012 vintage of this wine is at Waitrose for £7.99. A close second came another wine from the same source, Co-operative Fairtrade Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (£7.49).

As a source for Fairtrade wines, Chile seems to have lost its way. One supplier went bankrupt, and although it was bought out by the largest wine company in the country, Concha y Toro, the latter's main priorities appear to lie elsewhere. My favourite Chilean Fairtrade wine is Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Carmenère 2012. This is a grape that, for long, was confused with and sold as Merlot. Now it has become the signature red wine grape of the country.

South Africa has the broadest range of Fairtrade wineries and wines. So far, all the wines I have mentioned are red. From South Africa my rosé would be Six Hats Pinotage, from Marks & Spencer (£7.99). This is light and fruity. Of the white wines, I particularly enjoyed the Citrusdal Chenin Blanc 2013, although I am not sure where it is on sale. For party time, Morrisons have 2.25l (two-bottle equivalent) bag-in-box Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz/Merlot under the Fair Exchange label for £13.99.

South African Fairtrade wines that have received awards in recent competitions include Cambalala Pinotage 2012 (Aldo, £4.99), and Asda's Extra Special Shiraz 2012 (£7). One name to look out for in the Fairtrade field is Fairhills, and I can recommend their South African Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot 2011 (Tesco £7.99).

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