elizabethfriend.jpgCooperatively-made Fair Trade Wine
By: Elizabeth Friend, contributing Writer
     Wine making is an incredibly expensive, laborious process that takes years to perfect. This makes it difficult for small producers to get started, let alone turn a profit, and makes it almost impossible for them to compete with large corporations whose scale allows them to absorb high production costs more readily. By organizing into a cooperative, pooling resources and sharing facilities, individual farmers mitigate the cost of production. This enables them to craft superior wines that can be very affordable. (Some of our favorite co-op wines fall into that most charming of categories: the under $10 range). Wine co-ops are most often found in France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, but New World countries like Chile are gaining prominence.
     Comprised of 320 growers, the Adega Cooperativa de Borba is one of the oldest cooperative wine cellars in Alentejo, Portugal, yet it boasts some of the most modern winemaking equipment in the region. The signature wine of the area is Borba, a medium-weight aromatic red with flavors of cherry, spice and earth. At $8.49 a bottle, this sociable red is welcome at any table.
     Located at the heel of the Italian “boot” in the Puglia region, the Cantina Sociale Cooperativa di Leverano produces some of our favorite Italian wines, including the inestimable Leverano Rosato, a crisp pink delight that’s mandatory for surviving North Carolina summers. The co-op also sells wines under the Vecchia Torre label, such as the outstanding Salento Primitivo. An ancestor of Zinfindel, this ruby red powerhouse pairs well with hearty meals and strong cheeses. If you have yet to try these classic Italian wines, you owe it to yourself to pick one up at Weaver Street Market. From the light crisp Leverano Bianco to the seriously savory Salice Salentino, there is something for every palate. And at prices ranging from $7.49 to $9.99 per bottle, these wines are eminently affordable.
     Increasingly there is an awareness that the production of wine, like other agricultural production, needs to be scrutinized to ensure humane working conditions, sustainable farming systems, and ethical trading practices. With this in mind, Weaver Street Market is proud to present Taborga Red and Taborga White, the first Fair Trade, organic, co-op wine to be offered in America. Hailing from the Maule Valley in Chile, Viña Lomas de Cauquenes was the first Chilean winery to receive organic certification, and one of only two wineries in Chile to be certified by the Fair Trade Labeling Organization. The 240 growers in the co-op receive tutelage in organic and sustainable growing practices, as well as a fair trade price 50% higher that the lowest standard pricing in the region. It’s a common misconception that Fair Trade products are more expensive for consumers, but the $7.49 per bottle sale price for Taborga suggests otherwise. Taborga Red is a tasty blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pais with hints of hazelnut and strawberry, while Taborga White combines Moscatel and Semillon for a fresh flavor that is crisp and flowery with a hint of fruit.
     Though steeped in history and tradition, wine is still the drink of the people.  Regardless of whether you’re sipping a simple table wine or the finest champagne, your beverage represents the combined efforts of many. Cooperatives ensure that the growers and producers who make their livelihood on small farms can compete in an age of globalization and mass marketing. The number and variety of winemaking coops allow for a rich diversity of varietals and blends; a refreshing change from the ‘one wine fits all’ approach of large producers. Cooperative wines prove that there is truly strength in numbers, and that everyday wine need never be mundane.