Fairtrade update - Richard Dennis visits Ehrmanns' Fairtrade producers in Chile and Argentina
10 March 2014
Ehrmanns has deep roots in fair trade and was the first UK importer to start trading fairly in the UK back in 2004. Today, we have strong relationships with fair trade producers in Chile, Argentina, South Africa and more recently Lebanon, who are not only ensuring fair working conditions, fair wages and community development, but also outstanding quality.
On a recent buying trip to South America I visited two of our Fairtrade suppliers; Consorcio Vinicola de Chile and Monteflores in Argentina. CVC is a unique cooperative that was born from the reformist changes in the seventies and is currently comprised of five suppliers with a total of 64 grower members. They became Fairtrade FLO accredited in 2009 and haven’t looked back since. It was truly grounding to see the difference the FT premiums are having on the lives of the growers, their families and their surrounding communities. The money raised from the sales of wine has gone towards rebuilding farmers houses following the 2012 earthquake and has also allowed for five students to attend Talca University.
I met the new winemaker Paula Araya who joined the cooperative last year and brings with her 10 years of experience and a relentless passion for wine! Already she’s planning big changes including a move to single vineyard vinification, later harvesting and cooler pre-fermentations all to continually improve quality.
Over in Argentina, the team at Monteflores are well accustomed to terroir expression and true pioneers for sustainable development. We visited their winery in Chacras de Coria, Mendoza, where they have gone as far as separately fermenting plots within vineyards for even more refinement. The site is a sanctuary of wildlife with guinea pigs freely roaming the gardens, a variety of birds nesting and feeding and fat, dozy bumble bees drifting between the lavender and vines. And the wine quality is outstanding! We tried some of the 2013 vintages which are showing promising ripe fruit and fine tannins thanks to a high quality harvest that benefited from slower ripening. The Malbec showed impressive concentration and spice with a long finish and the Chardonnay was brimming with refreshing acidity and elegant guava fruit. The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignons were also vibrant and well-balanced with juicy red cherry and white pepper flavours – all a testament to their strive for quality.
The Monteflores Association (http://www.floresdelmonte.org) is their Fairtrade committee who represent the vineyard and winery workers. The website includes profiles of every worker and helps to breaks down the barrier between consumer and producer by giving updates on projects and what the FT premium is being spent on. One of the key projects is ensuring free access to healthcare via their Integrated Nutrition and Health Project (INHP) which provides health plans and regular counselling to the 61 families within the association. For the first time, in 2013 part of the FT premium has been spent on social projects in the wider community outside of Monteflores.
Director of Winemaking Philippe Rolet testifies that the influence of the fairer working conditions goes beyond better job satisfaction and has seen high levels of personal employee development where they are taking on more responsibility and project management experience. He sees workers show greater levels of productivity and loyalty to the company and testifies that this is fuelled by the fairer working conditions and higher wages that being Fairtrade certified ensures.
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