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SA Wine industry recognised abroad for ethical practices

As the South African wine industry continues to grow exports, it is also achieving increasing international recognition for its ethical approach to winemaking, says Wines of South Africa (WOSA) CEO Su Birch. Within the space of a few weeks SA was acknowledged by influential UK trade publication The Drinks Business, winning its Ethical Award for 2009 while also earning the lion’s share of trophies and prizes in the Fairtrade Wine Committee’s competition for best wines of the year, held in London.

The Ethical Award was presented to Project Laduma, WOSA’s programme established to train 2,010 wine stewards ahead of the 2010 World Cup, funded mainly through the sale of Fundi Wines, created for the purpose. These wines are selling in a range of markets abroad, including the UK, North America and Japan. Candidates for training are drawn from both the hospitality industry and the ranks of the unemployed.
Birch said that Fairtrade, initiated to protect workers across a range of industries, had helped to focus international attention on the importance of fair labour practices in promoting socio-economic sustainability. Research conducted by Globescan earlier this year had found that 87% of UK consumers believed the issue of payment to farmers or their workers in developing countries was important.
The first Fairtrade certified wine to be launched in the UK was a South African product, Thandi Pinot Noir. There are now more than 250 Fairtrade-certified wines available in the UK, sourced from South Africa, Chile and Argentina.
South African producers won the 2009 trophies for Best Overall Fairtrade Wine, Best Fairtrade Red Wine and Best Fairtrade White Wine. The top prize and also the prize for best red went to Isabelo Pinotage 2008, while the prize for the best white went to Six Hats Sauvignon Blanc 2009. The title of Best Fairtrade Sparkling Wine was won by the Co-operative Fairtrade Cape Sparkling Rosé NV, produced by Du Toitskloof Cellars.
Decanter, a prominent British consumer magazine with an international readership, chose six South African wines for its top ten list of Fairtrade wines. These included wines from Isabelo, Hope’s Garden, Thandi, Fairhills and two produced for the Co-operative Group.
Birch said that WIETA, the Agricultural Ethical Trading Initiative SA, founded in 2002, had also helped local producers to raise working conditions on wine farms. The organisation had established a code of good practice governing labour standards to encourage reform. It was also collaborating with major retailers abroad to build support for its objectives.
South Africa boasts the fastest growth rate of wine sales amongst its competitors in the UK with a volume share of the market at just over 10%.

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