THE broadest, brightest night sky over one part of South Africa has inspired the name of one of the country’s most successful wineries.
Stellar Winery is 275 kilometres north of Cape Town on the road to Namibia. Its name doesn’t just reflect the spangled sky above – but it also summarises the breadth of the aspirations of both the cellar and the farmers who grow the grapes.
Stellar is just one of many wineries worldwide which have adopted the principles of fair trade – in this instance, the principles of the Fair for Life programme.
This fortnight – up until March 10 – is Fairtrade Fortnight, which is calling on the public, business and government to go further in making trade work better for farmers and workers.
In 2011, UK sales of Fairtrade wine grew by 12% in value and 6% in volume to total 6.5 million litres. There are now over 250 certified Fairtrade wines in the UK.
The ethos Stellar has adopted has seen the privately-owned winery develop into one in which the workers own a 26% shareholding. It was the first organic winery in the world to be awarded Fairtrade certification and the communities around have benefited tremendously.
There’s a Viognier vineyard planted next to the school, where wine is made as an education project.
There’s also a football field, a training centre where workers can have courses in numeracy and an organic vegetable garden which not only helps to feed the community, but is now also a money-making concern.
If you buy fair trade wine, you know you will be helping to make a difference. Here’s a handful:
Stellar Fairtrade Merlot No added sulphur/low sulphites (£7.75 www.vintageroots.co.uk) is an easy-drinking, but flavoursome wine packed with cherry fruit and soft and supple tannins. Why no sulphur? Sulphur is added in winemaking first as an antiseptic to kill yeast, moulds and bacteria and secondly as an antioxidant.
Stellar believes that producing an S02-free wine allows them to recapture the “credibility in organic wines”.
I enjoyed Fairhills Fairtrade Colombard/Sauvignon Blanc Western Cape, (down to £5.39 from to £6.79 at Waitrose until March 12). Fairhills is one of the world’s largest Fairtrade projects across three countries – Argentina, Chile and South Africa. This is from the latter and for a gentle weekday relax, was refreshing and mouth-watering with the signature gooseberry notes from sauvignon blanc.
Cambalala Fairtrade Pinotage (£4.99, Aldi) was a silver award winner at last year’s International Wine and Spirits competition.
It has dark berries, spice and pepper on the nose and a broody smokiness; peppery and black fruits to taste.
This grape specific to South Africa is a complicated little devil.
Finally, doff your cap to the Six Hats range of South African Fairtrade wines launched in 2009 and which highlights the responsibilities in equitable wine farming. The six “hats” are worn by both the farmer and the community – they are partnership, change, potential, equity, dignity and sustainability.
The new 2012 Six Hats vintages of shiraz and rosé (both £ 7.99) are two for £12 at M&S until March 3 – buy six save 25 per cent. The shiraz has blackberries and spice in abundance and the rosé more feminine strawberries crafted from the Pinotage grape.
This column first appeared in the Liverpool Post on March 1 2013