Wine

Worker at Riojana Cooperative in Argentina. Image Courtesy of La Riojana Wines.

Wine has been socially and culturally significant to human society for thousands of years. Today there are many thousands of vineyards and wineries around the world producing a wide variety of uniquely flavourful wines. However, in developing countries many small-scale wine growers struggle because of unsustainable trade practices and workers on large wine estates frequently have to cultivate wine grapes under very poor working conditions.

To support smallholder wine growers, workers and estate owners that want to produce their wine under fair conditions, Fairtrade began to certify wine in 2003. Today, wine enthusiasts as well as occasional consumers can choose from a wide range of Fairtrade wines of different colours, grape types, tastes and aromas.

Fairtrade Wine Facts

  • Fairtrade wine comes from Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Lebanon.

  • Fairtrade wine grapes are grown on a combined total of 11,400 hectares, according to the 2015 Fairtrade Monitoring and Impact Report.

  • In 2013-14, Fairtrade certified vineyards were able to sell wine, equivalent to 35,000 tonnes of wine grapes, on Fairtrade terms.

  • Fairtrade vineyard workers and farmers received €1,595,300 in Fairtrade Premium Payments.

Fairtrade Impact for Small-scale Winegrowers and Workers

Vineyards that are Fairtrade certified are entitled to receive at the least the Fairtrade Minimum Price, when they sell their wine (grapes) to a trader on Fairtrade terms. This protects smallholder winegrowers and vineyards with workers from sudden drops in the world wine grape markets and enables them to plan beyond the next planting and harvesting cycle. The Fairtrade Minimum Price for wine (grapes) varies depending on the cost of living and business in each area of origin and on its cultivation method (it is higher for organic than for conventional cultivation).

While the Fairtrade Minimum Price provides winegrowers with the means to sustain their operations, the Fairtrade Premium - a fixed amount paid on top of the sales price - enables small-scale farmers and vineyard workers to invest in social, economic and environmental improvements. Smallholder winegrower cooperatives collect the Premium payments on behalf of their members, who decide how the funds shall be spent, for instance for new harvesting and processing equipment or education facilities for their children.

On vineyards with hired workers, a Premium Committee, consisting of elected workers, administers the Premium and a General Assembly, consisting of all workers, decides how the funds should be used. Workers often invest their Premium in health care or schooling facilities. Like the Minimum Price, the Fairtrade Premium also varies by region and cultivation method. Fairtrade also fosters worker’s abilities to form or join independent trade unions and enter into collective agreements with vineyard owners. 

Beyond the financial benefits, Fairtrade also has other impact on the work and lives of wine growing farmers and workers. Fairtrade has rigid health and safety standards to protect their wellbeing as well as that of nearby communities and ecosystems. For instance, Fairtrade bans the usage of some highly toxic agro-chemicals that are often sprayed in vineyards and prescribes rules for the safe application of less toxic ones.

Challenges for Small-scale Winegrowers and Workers

Small-scale winegrowers and wine estate workers in developing countries face difficulties in making a living off their income from winegrowing. This is due to low and volatile wine grape prices and because of low wages and poor working conditions.

Beyond these general problem areas, there are also some specific issues in countries where Fairtrade operates. For example, apartheid’s legacy in South Africa has cemented racial segmentation in the wine sector to this day. Often, black South African workers still perform inferior and physically consumptive functions on large wine estates. This has manifested across generations, partly because of a lack of education for these workers. Workers on Fairtrade certified estates invest their Fairtrade Premium in training and education, e.g. IT-learning facilities, to address these structural imbalances. Also, Fairtrade works with small-scale winegrower cooperatives to overcome racial inequalities related to ownership, and encourages and trains black South Africans to take on (co-)ownerships of vineyards.

In Lebanon, smallholder farmers struggling to make a living have turned to grow illicit crops such as cannabis and red poppy. While these crops are occasionally destroyed by the Lebanese Government as an anti-drug measure, famers seem to be left with no alternatives. Often, arid soil and lack of technology prevents them growing any other crops. With technical assistance from the French Department l’Oise, some small-scale farmers were able to begin cultivating wine and formed a cooperative, which has become Fairtrade certified.

General Wine Facts

  • During the Middle Ages wine mixed with water was preferred over pure water as an everyday beverage (also for children), because it was considered healthier due to the alcohol’s sterilising function.

  • Wine sommeliers assess a wine based on four sensual characteristics: look, taste, smell and feeling (texture as perceived inside the mouth).

  • Swirl the wine inside the glass before you smell it to release more of the wine’s aroma.

  • Use salt and not white wine, to clean up freshly-spilled red wine.

Buying and Selling Fairtrade

Fairtrade products are sold in over 130 countries. For more information on Fairtrade near you, visit Fairtrade Near You or select one of the countries in blue on the map below. If you’re interested in selling Fairtrade or sourcing Fairtrade products in your country, see our information about selling Fairtrade.

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