A Rare Find: Fair Trade Wine

My husband, and admittedly I, enjoy a nice glass of red wine most nights at dinner. Our favorites are the rich spicy red wines from Argentina, especially Malbec and Rioja. Wine is on my mind because we are leaving soon on a vacation/ work trip/ conference to Buenos Aires, where we plan to sip, or possibly gulp, Argentine vino daily. When I think of wine production I think fertile soil, hilly vineyards bathed in sunshine, and happy workers laughing as they cut grapes into hand-woven baskets.

While my ethereal vision may still be the reality for some of the world’s vineyards, according to Co-op America most of the wine produced in the Global South comes from vineyards where workers are paid poverty level wages and exposed to heavy pesticide use.

Fair trade wine is brand new to the U.S. market. The only U.S. distributor I’ve been able to locate is Etica, and they don’t sell their wine too widely yet. It’s not at all available in Oregon as far as I can tell. I hope to locate and sample fair trade wine while in Argentina, but what’s a responsible wine lover to do here in Oregon?

The obvious answer is to drink local wine, since our state is home to some incredible vineyards. For those times when my meal requires a variety not available locally I consulted my handy Better World Shopping Guide. I discovered that Yellow Tail, Gallo, Banrock Station, Fetzer and other wine producers are considered ethical wines I can enjoy without guilt. Any organic wine is also considered responsible since pesticide use is one of the biggest problems for workers.

Have you found fair trade or organic wine near you? What’s your favorite local wine? If you’ve found a fair trade, organic or local equivalent to Malbec I’d love to know about it.

This posting ends two weeks of fair trade product reviews for Fair Trade Fortnight. I hope these reviews  inspire you to change at least one shopping habit. And on another note, we leave soon for Argentina and I will be posting here about my adventures and discoveries from the other side of the world!



  1. KarenP said,

    May 19, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    This brings up an interesting point. How do you balance your desire to buy fair trade with your commitment to environmental sustainability? I realize that often the interests of one are in the interests of the other, but there are conflicts of interest at times. Fair trade wine is a good example.

    People have always traded with others to obtain products they cannot produce themselves. Chocolate is a good example. Since I can’t get locally-produced chocolate from locally-grown cocoa beans (at least as long as I live in Oregon), it makes sense to me to trade fairly for this, recognizing that it is a luxury item and not, perhaps, one that I need to indulge in every day (although the Maya Gold chocolate makes that tempting!).

    But wine? If I am going to drink South American wine, it makes sense to purchase fair trade wine, if it is available. But does it make environmental sense to transport that wine around the globe when I have a wide array of outstanding wines available to me that are grown and produced within 100 miles of my home?

    Back to the chocolate. I’m enjoying tasting the various fair trade bars I’m finding in different grocery stores, but so far, most seem to rack up quite a few food miles on their way to my palate. The Equal Exchange chocolate bar, for example, was made from cocoa beans grown in the Dominican Republic, processed in Switzerland, and sold here in Oregon. Do I really need a luxury product that has crossed the ocean TWICE to get to me?

    How do you reconcile these two ideals?

  2. KarenP said,

    May 19, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Here’s an article on Oregon Tilth’s website on Oregon organic wines.

  3. Scalding said,

    June 19, 2008 at 4:07 am

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation :) Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Scalding.

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