Fairtrade Wine

About Fairtrade wine

Wine grape farming and wine-making are time-consuming industries, strenuous and labour-intensive. The demanding processes involved in the production of wine often lead to poor labour standards and living conditions for both small wine grape farmers and hired labourers on large plantations.

Fairtrade Standards are designed to improve employment conditions and protect the rights of workers on wine grape plantations and to support small wine grape farmers’ organisations in gaining more control within supply chains and increase their incomes. There are 45 Fairtrade wine producer organisations worldwide across South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Lebanon, representing more than 40,000 farmers and workers.

South Africa is the largest producer of Fairtrade wine globally, with 26 producer organisations, and accounts for around two- thirds of Fairtrade wine sales. Chile also produces a high proportion of Fairtrade wine, with 9 producer organisations in country. Both of these countries have been witness to unique economic, social and political challenges.

The apartheid system in South Africa limited the opportunities for economic advancement of the majority of the population and left a legacy of poor employment conditions and labour relations in the wine industry. These problems include highly unequal land distribution and a history of paternalistic labour relations, rampant alcoholism among workers, low wages, inadequate housing and labour practices that often discriminate against women. 

Chile has a long history of co-operatives in wine grape growing and wine making but many went bankrupt during the Pinochet regime. Many surviving farmers are located in areas of extreme poverty and struggle with low market prices that do not generate sufficient income to meet the needs of their families.

Fairtrade Standards include payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price that aims to cover small wine grape farmers’ average costs of production. Fairtrade certified plantations must provide decent working conditions for workers and protect their rights in line with core International Labour Organization Conventions, including the right to join a trade union and collectively negotiate their working conditions, a safe and healthy environment and no discrimination or child labour. 

In 2014, more than 22.2 million litres of Fairtrade wine were sold globally. Small farmers and workers on plantations receive the additional Fairtrade Premium for these sales, which amounted to £635,000 in 2013. The Premium is invested in improving farm practices, education, healthcare and training programmes that benefit farmers and workers, their families and communities. 

How does Waitrose support Fairtrade wine?

La Riojana Co-operative, Argentina (where Tilimqui is sourced from)

La Riojana is a co-operative of small-scale grape farmers in northwest Argentina who also process, bottle and export their wine to Europe and the US.

The main winery and vineyards are located in Argentina’s picturesque and remote Famatina Valley within the agriculturally rich province of La Rioja. With its rich alluvial soil and high altitude the valley is ideal for viticulture, the vineyards benefiting from warm, sunny days, cool nights and very low rainfall.

La Riojana provides its members with a number of services including:

- Guaranteed purchase of grapes at higher prices
- Transport from vineyard to winery; access to credit
- Free technical assistance
- Bulk purchase of diesel and fertilisers
- Profit sharing
- Sports club and recreational activities

La Riojana produces a wide range of Fairtrade and organic certified wines from many different grape varieties. Its brands include Tilimuqui, Santa Florentina, La Posada, Raza Argentina, Solombra and Ecologica. It also supplies private label wines to leading retailers.

La Riojana was Fairtrade certified in 2006. Fairtrade standards include a minimum price for grapes to cover average costs of sustainable production and an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in business and community projects.


Fairtrade Premium Projects

Members meet to discuss and decide how to invest the Fairtrade Premium and an elected committee is responsible for implementing and managing the selected projects. So far, the group has focussed on using the Premium to improve healthcare and education facilities in the rural communities where many of the growers, workers and their families live.

Shop fairtrade wine

Waitrose supports fairtrade wine with varieties from Argentina, Chile and South Africa.