Wine: All About Fair Trade Wine

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As Emily explained in her posts last week, October is National Fair Trade month in the United States. We thought we'd explore what Fair Trade means when it comes to wine, and look at what is available in the U.S. market.

While Fair Trade wine has been available in Europe since 2003, it was only in 2007 that the first Fair Trade wines became available in the United States.

Like other Fair Trade products, Fair Trade wine means that the wine was produced in a fair and humane way, to meet the Internationally recognized Fair Trade standards. Farmers are treated with respect, paid a decent wage, and the grapes are cultivated in an environmentally sustainable manner.

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The Fair Trade Labelling Organization (FLO), which is located in Germany, developed the first Fair Trade standards for vineyards in South Africa in 2003. This has subsequently been expanded to include vineyards in Chile and Argentina. FLO works with third party certification organizations in different countries across the globe. In the United States Transfair USA is the official third-party certifier of Fair Trade products.

According to Anthony Marek of Transfair USA, they are just about to launch their wine program, and soon we shall see a lot more Fair Trade wines available through several large scale retailers.

He also also explained that in Europe the market is more developed. Fair Trade certified wine sales have been growing at a rate of over 50% in Europe since the first certified wines were available in 2003. The United Kingdon is the market leader, where, according to Transfair USA, Fair Trade certified wine sales rose from 800,000 bottles in 2004 to 4 million bottles in 2007, with an estimated retail value of £8.2 million. As more Fair Trade wines become available in the United States, let us hope that the market takes off with similar gusto.

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At the moment there are just two ways to get Fair Trade wines in the United States:

Etica Fair Trade: Founded by Tiffany Tompkins, and located in Minnesota, Etica distributes eight different certified Fair Trade wines. Goue Vallei wines, which are from South Africa, and Calesa wines from Chile.

As the company is based in Minnesota, the wines are widely available there. At the moment you cannot buy from their website, but you can order by telephone and have the wine shipped, if your state allows wine to be mailed.

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Melania and Taborga: Imported by C&C Imports, this company distributes two FLO Certified Fair Trade brands from Chile - Melania and Taborga. In fact these were the first Fair Trade wines in the U.S. These wines are more widely available. According to their website the wines are sold in FL, GA, IN, CT, IL, ME, MD, NC, NM, OH, OR, TX and VA. They are also available in Vermont from Windham Wines.

Unfortunately, these wines are not yet available in New York, so I have not had occasion to taste them. I would love to hear from The Kitchn readers who have tasted any of these wines. They retail from $10 to $15 a bottle.

Given the growing importance of imported wines in our market, and especially wines from South Africa, Chile and Argentina, hopefully, we are going to see a huge increase in wines bearing the Fair Trade mark.

So until next week, I'd love to hear from you on your opinion on Fair Trade wines.

Mary

(Images: Fair Trade Logo courtesy of Transfair USA, Citrusdal Valley in South Africa courtesy of Ethica Fair Trade)

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Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. In 2012 she was honored as a Dame Chevalier de L'Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne.