AFTER the popularity of last year’s blog entry about Fairtrade wines, I thought it would be good to offer an update on some of this year’s offerings from two of the biggest players in the sector: The Co-operative and Marks & Spencer.
Fairtrade Fortnight kicks off on Monday and runs until 13 March, so now is the ideal time to stock up on ethically-sourced wines – and maybe a bar or two of ethically-sourced chocolate to accompany them too.
The grapes that are used to produce wines carrying the Fairtrade mark are sourced from growers that meet basic standards, including on the protection of workers’ rights and the environment.
Growers receive a fair price for their grapes and also a premium that can then be invested in social projects, such as education, healthcare or sanitation.
Fairtrade wines normally come from Argentina, Chile and South Africa and, as with all Fairtrade products, it’s about offering farmers a “hand-up”, not a “hand-out”.
The Co-operative Fairtrade Merlot 2014 (£5.99)
This merlot from Argentina is really pronounced on the nose, with lots of blueberries and violets. On the palate, the fruit is really concentrated and is joined by a sweet vanilla note. Argentina might be more closely associated with malbec and indeed cabernet sauvignon, but this merlot is well worth a shot.
The Co-operative Fairtrade Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (£5.99)
Good sturdy cabernet sauvignon from Argentina, with plenty of blackcurrant flavours and none of the green or under-ripe notes you sometimes find with cheaper cab sav. It’s dry and has a lot of tannin – the substance in tea that causes you to suck in your cheeks – making it a better match for food than for sipping on its own.
M&S Charles Back Stonedance Darling Shiraz 2014 (£10)
It’s a step-up in price compared to some of the other Fairtrade wines on offer this spring, but it’s well worth the extra pennies. On the nose, there are plenty of dark blackcurrant and blackberry aromas, mingling with smoke and roast meat. The black fruit flavours follow through onto the palate and are joined by sweeter notes of vanilla and menthol. The acidity is high, as are the tannins, but the whole package is well balanced, making this a good match for meaty dishes like casseroles or steaks.
The Co-operative Fairtrade Pinot Grigio 2015 (£5.99)
Pinot grigio from Argentina, not Italy – whatever next? Don’t be put off by finding this familiar grape in an unfamiliar place – there are plenty of those recognisable pear and green apple flavours, along with some honeysuckle aromas on the nose. There’s plenty of acidity too, making this a good match for food, but the fruit is concentrated enough to match the acidity, allowing you to enjoy or a glass on its own too.
M&S Six Hats Six Hats Fairtrade Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (£8)
There’s a lot of cheap South African sauvignon blanc that really shouldn’t have bothered making the trip to this side of the equator, but this example demonstrates all the best characteristics of the grape, with green pepper and cut grass on the nose leading into asparagus and more bell pepper on the palate. There’s good acidity to balance the fruit, without turning the wine into paint stripper.
Fairtrade Six Hats Rosé 2015 (£7)
The Six Hats rosé has a really vibrant strawberry colour. It smells a little confected on the nose, like red cherry cough sweets, but on the palate it’s much fresher, with plenty of strawberry, raspberry and red cherry flavours coupled with high acidity to make this a classic match for charcuterie.