Co-op Fairtrade Carmenère, Central Valley, Chile 2020 (£6.65, Co-op)
Fairtrade Fortnight, the Fairtrade Foundation’s annual festival of ethically sourced products, begins tomorrow, and I’ve noticed an interesting shift in emphasis in the activities planned until 12 March. If you happen to be in east London this week, for example, you can call in at the Endangered Aisle pop-up which the Foundation is running in Shoreditch to, in its words, “shine a light on the supermarket staples most at risk of becoming endangered from the climate crisis”. The Foundation says that coffee, chocolate and bananas are most at risk, with climate change “making crops like these harder and harder to grow. Combined with deeply unfair trade,” the foundation adds, “communities growing these crops are being pushed to the brink”. These harsh realities have been particularly evident this month for wine producers in southern Chile, where unprecedented wildfires, which the authorities have explicitly linked to climate change, have burned through hundreds of hectares of vineyards. All the more reason to support wines such as the Co-op’s blackberry-juicy Fairtrade Carmenère.
Adama Fairtrade White, Wellington, South Africa 2021 (£10, Co-op)
According to the Fairtrade Foundation, more than 50 producers now offer Fairtrade wines in the UK, either with their own brands or in partnership with supermarket own-labels. Although Chile and, more recently, Lebanon have played a part in contributing to the 20 million or so litres of Fairtrade-accredited wine consumed in the UK annually, the two most developed Fairtrade wine producing countries are undoubtedly South Africa and Argentina. Indeed, The Co-op – which, with more than three-quarters of the UK’s total Fairtrade wine sales, and a total of 57 Fairtrade wines, is comfortably the biggest retailer in this sector – has just announced that it will be switching all of its South Africa wines to Fairtrade. Whereas once this might have meant a significant compromise on quality, it’s hard to argue with wines such as the pair made at the Bosman Adama project: a robustly spicy Shiraz-based red blend (also £10), and, my favourite, the richly textured chenin blanc-grenache blanc white blend.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Morador Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 2020 (£9, Sainsbury’s)
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Morador Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 2020 (£9, Sainsbury’s) The Co-op’s South African Fairtrade commitment has also led it to invest £800,000 in setting up a new Fairtrade winery, Fairroots, in the Olifants Valley which will supply Co-op stores in years to come. And the retailer is clearly proud of the various social projects its Fairtrade premiums have funded over the past two decades, from the educational bursaries and library set up by the Caupolican co-operative behind the Chilean Carmenère, to helping secure a supply of clean water to the village of La Rioja, where many of the retailer’s Argentine Fairtrade wines are made. For sceptics (as I have been) concerned with greenwashing, or worried that Fairtrade projects like The Co-op’s simply tinker at the fringes of a global economy requiring massive reform, I’d counter that the Fairtrade projects I’ve witnessed in South Africa and South America are often transformative. I’m under no illusions that buying a bottle of suavely succulent Fairtrade red such as Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Malbec will change the world. But for the communities involved, it can make a small but nonetheless significant positive difference.
Follow David Williams on Twitter @Daveydaibach