Fairtrade Fortnight is here: a time for campaigners, businesses, schools and places of worship show their support for the farmer and workers who grow our food in developing countries (quote: fairtrade.org.uk)
Established in the 1940s, the ‘La Riojana’ winery was set up to make wine from the harvest of a few hundred small growers working the valleys. Here, where wine is the lifeblood of the local people, La Riojana has a clear social mission. They are one of the leading Fairtrade-certified wineries in the world. This is absolutely key to everything they do and can achieve, from providing work for 1,000 families to offering fair prices for their grapes as well as benefits like insurance and education programmes.
The co-operative is made up of hundreds of families who have worked together over the past 75 years. Every decision is taken with the approval of the co-operative; each member gets one vote, regardless of their size. Working closely with their members ensures that all products meet the highest quality standards, and that all actions are taken for the good of the community.
Operating under the Fairtrade banner guarantees each member a higher than average market price for their grapes, and also provides additional funding to ease day-to-day social and economic challenges. This Fairtrade Premium allows La Riojana to help, support and offer services that allow their members and their families to grow and prosper in the community.
The overall aim here is to break the cycle of poverty, improve health, gender equality and build peace. As well as donating books and computer equipment, one of the co-operatives recent achievements has been to build a new secondary school in the local community of Tilimuqui, to encourage older students to continue with their learning. Better access to education is just one of the key initiatives. A number of community projects have been taken on, such as the construction of new drinking facilites, and investments in a new sports recreation centres. Future projects include building a co-operative centre in each of La Rioja’s districts, after members identified the need for a communal place to meet and host events.
These ethical practices translate directly into the co-operative’s winemaking. The philosophy is to produce pure varietal expression with the best quality grapes, through sustainable and responsible winemaking, while protecting the typical characteristics of the local area. To this end, strong efforts are being made to enhance sustainable practices throughout the co-operative, aiming to double organic production in the next two years, and have the first biodynamic vineyards in production by the 2020 vintage.
While the co-operative’s fairtrade practices are important, the overriding mission here is still to produce great wine, with Chief Winemaker, Dr. Rodolfo Griguol leading the charge. One of Argentina’s most respected viticulturists, he has been instrumental in the development of the fresh-tasting, fruit-driven styles we know the winery for today. A natural viticultural paradise, the Famatina Valley offers ideal grape-growing conditions. Powerful sunlight, low rainfall and high altitudes come together to yield wines with supreme balance and intense yet delicate flavours.