Wine Articles IV
|Wine Articles IV|
Have fair trade wines come of age?
The Guardian, 24 Feb
For any fairly traded product to be beneficial to its producers it must be top quality and competitively priced. Which fairly-traded wines are worth buying just for the wine?
This week is the first of Fairtrade Fortnight and it seems that fairly-traded wine may finally be coming of age. In 2004 Thandi was the first wine to receive Fairtrade accreditation but progress in the sector has been slow. I've been keeping an eye on what's on offer as a judge in the last three UK Fairtrade wine competitions and in various other tastings. Generally I've been presented with very little to excite the palate, and have rarely found a wine that I'd share with friends.
Thankfully this is changing. Recently I tasted around 50 wines which are currently available and found that the quality has improved enormously and the choice is becoming much more varied. The £5+ segment I focused on is an important one for Fairtrade wines as the higher the price point the greater the benefits paid to the growers. So which were the most impressive? Here are my current favourites, starting with some fizz.
It's satisfying to know that by supporting Fairtrade wines you can help to improve the living conditions of communities in often very remote locations. To pick one example, thanks to Fairtrade and its partnership with The Co-operative, La Riojana has completed a project to bring clean drinking water to the nearly 400 residents of Tilimuqui in La Rioja province, and work on building a new school is under way. We should raise a glass to that, and to the improving quality of Fairtrade wines across the world which will hopefully mean more investment in the growers' communities in years to come. Do you drink fairly-traded wines, and which have you found to be the best?
Wine Tasting at Farmers Markets?
Wines and Vines, 24 Feb
The bill received house approval Feb. 15 and will come before state senators Friday. It provides a framework that will allow up to 20 wineries to offer tastings at 10 farmers markets between July 1, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2011. The program mandates at least six days of tastings, under strict conditions including,
• Samples must be
• No more than one sample of any single brand may be served during a visit;
• Food must be available at the winery’s table or at an adjacent vendor’s table.
“It’s to get your alcohol out there in the community, so you can do some tasting,” Jennifer Skoda, an enforcement officer with the Washington State Liquor Control Board, told those attending the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers conference in Kennewick earlier this month.
Chances are good the bill will achieve just that, given a positive recommendation in a legislative staff report.
The sole objection to the pilot program came from Seth Dawson and Jim Cooper of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse Prevention, who feel it would boost the casual use of alcohol in a state that has no comprehensive education program for youths regarding the effects of alcohol consumption. Pointing to infractions of state liquor regulations during the pilot of supermarket tastings (there were just three instances, a rate not deemed extraordinary), the association urged greater funding for monitoring of compliance.
On the other hand, legislative staff summarized the association’s opinion that the bill was the best expression of a bad initiative: “We don't really like the bill, but if it has to happen, it couldn't get much better than this.”
Meanwhile, state farmers market associations applaud the move as complementing existing legislation that kicked in six years ago to allow the sale of wine at farmers markets. Those sales have languished because sampling isn’t allowed, the associations contend, noting that just 12 wineries have offered their wines at the markets.
“This bill will allow the vintners and brewers to market and sell their product more than they can now, because people will be able to sample the product,” said the staff summary of comments. “Taste is everything. People don't want to part with their money when they don't know what something tastes like.”
Martin Clubb, winemaker at
“Having more opportunities, like a farmers market deal is a good idea,” said Clubb, who operates L’Ecole No. 41 with his wife Megan. Megan Clubb serves as president of the Washington Wine Institute, which supports the initiative. “The channels for selling wine through traditional methods have shrunk, particularly in the kind of economy we’ve been in the last couple of years. And yet the number of brands and small wineries continues to proliferate.”
The initiative builds on a successful supermarket tasting pilot in 2008 and 2009. The program garnered approval from the state house this month and is poised to become a permanent element of supermarket wine promotions.
“It’s kind of following in the footsteps of the grocery stores,” said Jean Leonard, executive director of the Washington Wine Institute said of the market tastings, noting that it’s part of what’s proving to be a busy but effective session for the institute. “We’re very pleased with the targeted, specific agenda, and so far are being very successful.”
The legislation enabling the pilot program runs through
Wine farmers in shock over plan to reopen mines
A South African government move which could destroy part of the
A state-owned mining company, the African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation (AEMFC), has applied for rights to prospect for tin, zinc, lead, lithium, copper, manganese and silver on several landmark farms in the municipalities of
The company wishes to re-open mines closed decades ago - and landowners and residents in the area are concerned that this could ruin the region.
The plan is explained in a "background information document" which the state mining agency commissioned consultants GCS to produce.
GCS has also been commissioned to produce an environmental management plan, and interested parties have until March 9 to comment.
Among the farms are some of
The historic De Grendel estate, on the slopes of the Tygerberg hills, owned by the Graaff family is one.
Also threatened are Zevenwacht and Saxenberg outside
Yesterday news of the plan was met with disbelief. Gary Jordan, of
An urgent meeting is planned for Saturday morning at Zevenwacht estate to which the public has been invited, where farmers, land-owners and residents of
Already, the Graaff family has sent a legal letter to the consultants expressing vociferous objection to the plan.
"When you look at everything that's been spent setting up the Biodiversity in Wine Institute, when you look at everything that's gone into setting up conservancies to protect nature and the natural heritage of this area, this makes a mockery of everything we've tried to achieve,"
He said it was particularly worrying that the state company appeared to be exempt from following normal legal procedures. "It's not morally right and it's not good for the industry, or for
The AEMFC is owned by the Central Energy Fund and is mandated to "acquire and hold exploration and mineral rights" for the government.
Bumper Californian crop puts pressure on high-end
The California Department of Food and Agriculture's Preliminary Crush Report said 3.7m tons of wine grapes were harvested in 2009.
This was up more than 20% on 2008's small crop and not far short of the record harvest in 2005.
'We knew it was big, but we did not think it was this big,' said John Ciatti, partner in wine and grape brokerage the Ciatti Company.
'This crop will put additional pressure on the already struggling premium segment of the wine business.'
Nick Frey, of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, told decanter.com that the
The market for higher-end grapes and wine remained 'one of caution,' he said, with grape prices expected to fall further this year.
'At the grower level in
Terry Hall, communications director for Napa Valley Vintners, said it was 'too soon' to form a full picture of 2009.
'The wines from this high-quality vintage will not be in the market for nearly two, and by and large three, years – at which point we are hopeful that the recession is well behind us,' he said.
The largest production increases came in the Central Valley and
These extra grapes, said Frey, could offset the huge recent increases in bulk wine imports – but Ciatti warned that even the value segment could see weaker demand because of the larger crop.
New organic logo may cause confusion
A new EU logo for organic products could confuse consumers, says a leading agricultural group.
The European Commission has mandated the use of the new logo for organic products made within the EU – regardless of whether they already meet higher standards from other certifying bodies.
As of July 2010, items produced within the 27 EU states that meet the EU's organic certification standards must bear a leaf-shaped mark chosen from entries to an online competition.
Optional for products from outside the EU, the mark must be used alongside any others representing national or private certification programmes.
'We were concerned that it was too similar to our own trademark, so we sought legal advice and were told there's no infringement,' said LEAF spokesperson Jeremy Boxall.
'People generally don't like to be dictated to. On the other hand, perhaps it is a good idea to have one label that consumers can recognise in any country they visit.'
LEAF, whose clients include Avondale Wines and some Yvon Mau vineyards, does not certify organic products: rather, it promotes responsible farming and resource management.
He and others are concerned that consumers will assume the EU logo implies a higher level of commitment than it actually does.
'We don't think people who buy organic food are so much concerned about EU origins - as that it was produced to high environmental and animal welfare standards, and is free from GM and harmful additives,' said Molly Conisbee, director of communications and campaigns at the Soil Association.
Last Updated (Monday, 01 March 2010 12:46)