At the moment, the South African wine industry is in a bit of a crisis.
Firstly, there’s the drought, which left 2018 yields down by 15% from the previous year (a loss of 170 million litres). Then, of course, there’s the fact that the majority of wine producers are operating at a loss, with producer numbers shrinking due to our wines continuing to be sold at prices that are not sustainable. In fact, a lot of old vines and vineyard area is being pulled out to be replaced with more profitable fruit crops such as blueberries.
So, the question stands: if you buy wine, how can you become more conscientious in your purchasing choices?
As much as it is up to a winery to communicate the good they do, so it is up to a wine drinker to support the good and make sustainable buying decisions. Organisations are by no means perfect, but many are in place with the objective to improve growing and working conditions. Here are 3 seals (actual stickers or logos on bottles) that you should look out for when searching the wine shelf…
The point of Fairtrade is to introduce a set of standards that are designed to improve employment conditions and protect the rights of workers on wine farms and to support small wine grape farmers’ organisations in gaining more control within supply chains and increase their incomes. South Africa is the largest producer of Fairtrade wine globally, with 24 producer organisations, and accounts for around two- thirds of Fairtrade wine sales. When you purchase a bottle of wine that has a Fairtrade logo, this means you are directly supporting the workers that helped produce the wine. How? Small farmers and workers on Fairtrade-accredited wine farms receive the additional Fairtrade Premium from sales of Fairtrade bottles. This money is then invested in improving farm practices, education, healthcare and training programmes that benefit farmers and workers, their families and communities. Some well-known, Fairtrade accredited farms within South Africa include Bosman, Fairview, Asara and A Place in the Sun.
Sustainable Wine South Africa (SWSA) is the alliance between the Wine and Spirit Board (WSB), the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) scheme, the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI) and Wines of South Africa (WOSA). Together these organisations are driving the South African wine industry’s commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly production.If you see a SWSA seal on your bottle of wine, this is a guarantee of origin, vintage and variety as stated on the wine label – ensuring you as a customer are literally getting what you pay for.
Established in November 2002, Wine and Agricultural Ethical Trade Association (WIETA) is a multi-stakeholder, non-profit voluntary organisation which actively promotes ethical trade in the wine industry value chain through training, technical assessment and audits to assess members’ compliance with its code of good practice. If your wine has a WIETA seal, this means that the winery has received certification status and became an accredited member, testifying to reasonable working conditions, based on rigorous and closely monitored qualification criteria.