Fairtrade at Virgin Wines
- Feb 28, 2011
As Fairtrade fortnight starts today, we thought this was a perfect time to tell you about some of the work that Virgin Wines is doing.
Virgin Wines sources its wines from small independent winemakers and, in doing so, wholeheartedly believes in providing all of them with a fair return for their wines. However, alongside this, the retailer is proud to be able to offer its customers a range of Fairtrade accredited wines which gives even more back to the community.
The Fairtrade logo on products indicates that the product has been audited by the Fairtrade organisation. It guarantees a fair price for farm produce as well as fair and dignified treatment of worker communities and the environment.
The Fairhills Project
Some of Virgin Wine’s Fairtrade products come from Fairhills which is the biggest Fairtrade wine initiative worldwide. The wine is made in Du Toitskloof Cellar, in partnership with Origin Wine, but the grapes come from 22 Fairtrade farms covering over 870 hectares! It was established just over five years ago in Rawsonville, South Africa, and now produces 12 million litres of wine annually.
Fairhill is helping to prove that the wine industry can transform lives. In addition to providing these farmers with a livelihood and rewarding those who treat both their employees and the environment in a dignified, sustainable manner, Fairhills has invested in an exhaustive list of community programmes.
Since its inception in 2005, the project has achieved many milestones. The success of the project has culminated in three daycare facilities being renovated and upgraded. A community centre has also been renovated and now boasts a library and computer training centre. Adult education also took a step up when the largest literacy initiative was undertaken benefiting 200 people, offering basic reading and writing skills through to the completion of schooling careers. The initiative offers students the chance to study fields as diverse as nursing, paramedics, teaching, engineering, sport management, events management and human resources.
But the hard fact is that a tertiary education requires financial commitment stretching beyond a farm worker’s wage, even with the better employment conditions the project offers, which puts Fairhills’ wages up to 30% above the legal minimum. The existence of the tertiary education fund is therefore crucial to turn aspirations into reality.
Virgin Wines is the exclusive retailer of one of Fairhill’s Fairtrade wine ranges. It is named Usizo which means “assistance” in Zulu. Virgin Wines contributes three times the recommended Fairtrade premium directly to the Fairhills project. So far more than 100,000 bottles have been sold in the 18 months that the wines have been available. Contributions to date have led to the completion of the building of the computer centre and library at the Lorraine primary school in Rawsonville, and funds are now being used to equip them with the necessary books and computers.
Virgin Wines also sells the Percheron Werner Premium Sauvignon Blanc, another certified Fairtrade wine, which is made by Koopmanskloof.
Koopmanskloof is one of the longest standing Fairtrade wineries in South Africa. The Fairtrade ethos was already deeply ingrained in it business long before the Fairtrade organization existed. The farm has been owned by generations of the Smit family since 1895. Late Stevie Smit, decided to take it on himself to lease land to the farmers and growers of the area ensuring profits go directly back to the growers involved.
Koopmanskloof are also involved with numerous social and environmental initiatives, such as the Biodynamic Wine Initiative for which they were recently awarded 'Champion status' which is the highest status you can achieve. In 1980 they also helped create a 98 hectare Private Nature Reserve set aside for the preservation of the endangered types of vegetation. Virgin Wines has so far sold over 38,000 bottles of Koopmanskloof’s wine.
Virgin Wines is participating in Fairtrade Fortnight which runs from 28th February to 13th March and aims to raise awareness about all things Fairtrade. To find out more, visit www.fairtrade.org.uk/show_off_your_label/.
To check out Virgin Wines’ range of Fairtrade wines, visit www.virginwines.co.uk/fairtradefortnight