The first ethically produced wines in the world have been launched in South Africa, it was announced yesterday, the 26 wines carrying the new ethical seal of the Wine and Agricultural Ethical Trade Association (WIETA) reflecting that the wines have been produced using fair labour practices.
The ethical seal is awarded to individual wines, and not to wine estates generically, and resembles the wine sustainability seal applied in this country. To achieve accreditation, at least 60% of the wine producer’s suppliers must be WIETA accredited already, and the balance already audited and preparing themselves for accreditation for the 2013 vintage wines.
The WIETA Code evaluates labour practices against the base code of the International Labour Conventions’ Ethical Trading Initiative and South African labour law. It is a guarantee that no child labour has been used, that employment was chosen freely, that the employees have a healthy and safe working environment, that the employees have the right to ‘freedom of association’ , earn ‘a living wage’ , are protected against unfair discrimination, and have rights to housing and tenure. Each wine is individually audited on its labour ethics in every step of the production process, and an agreement must be signed to allow producers to carry the ethical seal over from one vintage to the next.
The wine estates featuring the new ethical seals are Fairview, for their Fairview Chenin Blanc 2012, Durif 2010, Nurok 2011 and Shiraz 2010, La Capra Chenin Blanc 2012 and Malbec 2011, and Spice Route Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Chenin Blanc 2012, Mourvèrdre 2009, and Leeuwenjacht Leeuwenblanc 2012; Place in the Sun Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 and Shiraz 2011; Tukulu Syrah unwooded 2009, Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Pinotage 2010, and Chenin Blanc 2012; Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2012 and Rhinofields Pinotage 2011; Robertson Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Chardonnay 2012, Chenin Blanc 2012, Merlot 2012, Pinotage 2011, Shiraz 2011; and Spier Frieda’s Vine Shiraz Mourvèrdre 2010 and Vine Chenin Blanc 2012. Some of these wines are Fairtrade accredited too. All the new WIETA accredited wines will be showcased on the WIETA stand at Cape Wine 2012, running from 25 – 27 September at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Wines of South Africa (WOSA) CEO Su Birch said that the new WIETA ethical seal highlights ‘the priority South African producers were giving to implementing fair working conditions for wine farm and cellar workers‘, and may be an important means of addressing international criticism by Human Rights Watch a year ago of the working conditions on wine farms.
POSTSCRIPT 14/9: On Twitter yesterday smaller estates wrote that they too treat their workers ethically, but cannot afford to pay for the audit and accreditation.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage