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Archive for January 21st, 2009

“Drink like you give a damn” is a trademark of Etica

German, tied for my best friend in the whole world, is a life-long political activist, born in Mexico.  He currently works in D.C. where he is the National Chair for the League of United Latin American Citizens’ Immigrant Affairs Commission.  His prime mandate is immigration and human rights.  Oh yeah and he’s also a member of the Crew.

German commented on the Crew a couple days back, asking for a list of Fair Trade Wine and Organic Wine, available in the US.  I have read about this topic off and on and have tasted some organic wine in the past but I have never purchased any Fair Trade Wine, so I decided to take up the challenge and research.  First let me issue a quick disclaimer.  As the editor of the Crew I intend to remain as objective and impartial as possible.  With this post I simply aim to introduce the Crew to the world of Fair Trade Wine, Organic Wine and while I’m at it, Biodynamic Wine.  Although the latter two are really not at all political, the concept of fair trade is a very important and emotional issue for many people, on both sides of the coin.  So whichever political slant you may have, please at least read this post as an opportunity to further explore wine and for some of you, this will be a platform to get involved in a cause that may be of interest.

Fair Trade Wine

Worker in a vineyard in ChileFor many people the concept of free trade is simply not enough with reports of immigrant worker abuse and even deaths, even throughout the vineyards of California.  To put this in perspective 15 farm workers have died due to heat-related incidents in California since 2003. (Source: Organic Consumers Association)  Exactly where the blame should lie i’ll leave up to the individual.  However, as a result of issues like this, the idea of “fair trade” has taken hold.  Fair trade guarantees that immigrant and low-skilled workers receive livable wages and equal opportunities.  There is also an emphasis on sustaining local environments and communities and empowering marginalized workers.

Fair Trade Wine is still a relatively new concept.  South Africa, Chile and Argentina have led the movement, dating back to 2003, and are still the only countries certified to produce Fair Trade Wine.  Wines marked as Fair Trade Wine must be certified by the Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO).  Fair Trade Wine has been available for over 5 years in Europe; however, availability is very limited in the United States market.  Importers and retailers must pay a premium of 10 cents per bottle on Fair Trade Wine.  This money is used for community development within the producing country.  (Source: Michelle Workers in the vineyard in ArgentinaLocke, Associated Press reporter)

Some Fair Trade Wine available in the US includes: Live-A-Little from Stellar Organics in South Africa (Whole Foods Market and Publix Super Markets), Wandering Grape from Argentina and South Africa (Target), Neu Direction from Argentina (Sam’s Club), Melania and Taborga from Viña Lomas de Cauquenes in Chile.  Additionally, one source for finding Fair Trade Wine, at least in Minnesota and Colorado, is Etica.  The only rating I could find on any of these bottles was the 2004 Melania Maule Valley Colección Especial Merlot. Wine Spectator rated this wine an 82, noting “Dusty tannins support modest plum and tobacco flavors. Slightly firm finish.”  Not great but certainly not bad if this is a cause that you support.

Some Fair Trade Wine producers…

Argentina
Inal
Pucciarelli de Chiaramonte
Cribran
Raimundo José Daminato
Bodegas y Viñedos Amadeo Marañon
La Riojana Cooperativa Vitivinifruticola de la Rioja
Nidi Davolio
Viña de la Solidaridad

Chile
Sociedad Vitivinicola Sagrada Familia S.A.
Gustavo Perez
Humberto Retamal
Cooperativa Agrícola Vitivinicola de Cauquenes
Mario Nuñez
Jorge Astrosa

Producer in South AfricaSouth Africa
Stofberg Brothers
Highbury Estate
Citrusdal – Bergendal
JB Bauermeister Boedery
Koopmanskloof Wingerde
Bergsig
Pierre van der Merwe Boerdery
JF Deetlefs
Citrusdal – Paardekop
PJD Stofberg
Stellar Organics
Sonop Wine Farmer
Lutouw Estate
Imbuko Wines

Organic and Biodynamic Wine

Regarding the next issue don’t worry I will be much briefer, especially since the topic is not at all new.  A buzz word for all food and South African vineyardsbeverage products for over a decade now has been “organic” and additionally in the world of agriculture, many speak of “biodynamics”.

The Organic Wine Journal is a great source for finding and learning about organic wine.  Basically organic wine comes from grapes that are grown without the influence of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.  For example sulfur, 100% natural, can be sprayed once or twice a year, to effectively combat bugs, instead of spraying deadly chemicals as often as 6 times a year.  Additionally, through the vinification process, there should be as little manipulation as possible, limiting the techniques of reverse osmosis, over filtration, and flavor additives.  And some wine makers opt for using wild yeasts, instead of commercial varieties.  (Sources: Organic Wine Journal and Green America)

For a complete list of organic producers, please click on the “wineries” link on the Organic Wine Journal web site

Biodynamic wine is even a step beyond organic wine, taking a spiritual and holistic view of agriculture.  The technique is related to the concept of anthroposophy; first coined by Rudulf Steiner.  Biodynamic wine making treats the vineyard as a self-contained organism.  Emphasis is placed on the integration between the vines and their surroundings, including the workers, as well as on the recycling of nutrients, soil maintenance, and the overall health of the vineyard. Some techniques implemented include the use of manures and crop rotation. The lunar calendar and celestial influences on the terroir also play a major role in the viticulture.  (Source: Wikipedia)

I imagine that some more conservative-minded people maybe be asking theirself right now “man what are you smoking?”  But just to put this into perspective, Opus One, of the Robert Mondavi and Lafite Rothschilde wine dynasties, is a biodynamically produced wine.  And the list of top crus goes on.  In fact biodynamic viticulture requires a closer focus on the terroir and overall care of the vineyard.  This close attention to every last detail quite often leads to wines that outperform many non-biodynamic wines in blind tastings.

For a complete list of biodynamic producers, please visit the following link at Fork & Bottle

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