Everyone has the notion that working on a vineyard is romantic. For freaks like me, I do love it but a lot of people don’t realize the hard work that goes into a working vineyard. You have pruning, grape picking, netting, cleaning vats with chemicals that eat through your clothes, not to mention climbing into the claustrophobic tanks themselves. So you have to remember when you uncork your nightly bottle that alot of hard work has gone into getting that bottle to your kitchen table.
Just as people prefer to buy ‘free-range eggs’ these days, ‘Fairtrade’ wine is hitting supermarket shelves in popular demand. Wine producers in South Africa, Argentina and Chile are announcing that they are Fairtrade certified. This basically means that the international organisation of Fairtrade is helping small farmers survive the constantly competitive global market. From what I can understand on the Fairtrade website, money is given to producers to invest in both social and business projects within the specified community.
In order for producers and worker groups to receive a Fairtrade premium, they need to uphold certain standards. These include: abiding by minimum wage for workers and supplying decent living and working conditions. Which is fair enough in my books, as I pointed out earlier – working on a vineyard is not necessarily the most romantic or easiest job. Especially if you’re getting paid peanuts.
In South Africa, a special set of rules has been implemented in order ‘to support post-apartheid economic empowerment’. In simple words, this means that disadvantaged workers can now own shares in the vineyards of at least 25%. It is a way for the people of South Africa to start pushing those class boundaries the right way. Hear; hear, for equal rights.
I bought the ‘The Unity Vineyards’ 2011 Reserve Merlot from Aldi for £5s and at the time I understood what Fairtrade was but not really how it worked in the wine industry. It’s funny how every wine has a story about it, and this one is different and rather enlightening. Thankfully like the ‘caged eggs’ at the supermarket, the other wines on the shelf don’t blatantly say ‘badly treated and underpaid workers helped produce this wine’.
So the question is, what was this Fairtrade plonk like? It was a heffa-lump of burning alcohol, plum fruits and the perfect companion to a peppered medium-rare steak. Hailing from the Western Cape of South Africa this bad boy is someone your parents never wanted you to go home with. Yet if you can get past the flaming alcohol scorch marks in your throat then you’ll notice an enticing silky smooth texture. Definitely not for the faint of heart.