Who benefits when you buy a bottle of wine? Well, hopefully, you do, when you open it and enjoy the contents. Not far behind is the government, who pick up a hefty chunk of your purchase price in duty and tax. The retailer, of course, takes a cut, as does the company that imported the wine, the bottle maker and many, many more along the line. But none of this could happen without the farmer growing the grapes and the producer making the wine.
Producers range from large multi-million pound companies to small, artisan winemakers. But, there’s one group of producers where your purchase may be helping a lot of people that have rather less than most of us. I’m thinking of those whose bottles bear the Fair Trade logo.
The Fair Trade Foundation, which is 25 years old this month, works with all types of small-scale farmers – not just those within the wine industry – ensuring that all those involved on the estates are paid a fair price for their crop and a fair wage for their labour. The Foundation also contributes to help local communities provide essential services such as education, sanitation and health care. Typical of the beneficiaries is the La Riojana co-operative, a group of grape growers in northwest Argentina who now also process, bottle and export their wine to Europe and the US.
Fair Trade wines are quite widely available but the largest retailer of them in the UK is the Co-operative supermarket group. Knowing of the benefits that come from Fair Trade’s involvement, I find it hard to recommend just one of their wines; do I have the right to say which community benefits and which does not?
What I will say is that those I have tried are very drinkable and excellent value for my money and the benefits for those less fortunate than me cannot be overstated.