Terroir refers to the natural environment in which wine grapes grow. Soil, topography, climate all working in harmony to impart flavor and taste, but at Fairtrade we think the people growing the grapes and making the wine are just as important. For National Cabernet Sauvignon Day (August 31), we spoke with Giles Thomas of Baobab Wines about what makes a Fairtrade wine so special.
Giles has the enviable role of Wine Importer and Brand Ambassador for Stonedance Wines from the Piekenierskloof Wine Company. This estate situated at 750 meters above sea level in the Citrusdal Mountains of South Africa produces great wines that meet the rigorous economic, social, and environmental criteria in the Fairtrade Standards.
What’s behind Stonedance wines? Where do they originate?
With Stonedance we wanted to craft wines that appealed to a new generation of wine drinker – a brand that doesn’t intimidate, but invites a broader audience to give South African wine a try. The name ‘Stonedance’ comes from a closely held ethos that our winemakers have dedicated themselves to, the idea that a place’s natural environment – its soil, topography, and climate – influence the flavor and quality of its grapes. Our winemaking practices adhere to a process that we believe ensures our wines will be infused with the truest expression of the winelands each wine came from. And we call this process ‘dancing with stones’.
Just as important…we want wine consumers to better understand the significance of Fairtrade wines and we believe that the Stonedance brand can be a great ambassador to help tell that story.
Why is Fairtrade important for Stonedance?
Buying Fairtrade wines from South Africa is vastly important to the development of its agricultural communities. One cannot ignore the recent history of South Africa even though many strides have been made in the last 20 years that have had an immensely positive impact on the lives of workers in the Cape winelands.
Unfortunately not all vineyards and estates follow practices that support the development of their workforce, and that makes it even more important for us to spread the message of the vineyards that are doing the right thing. Fairtrade is the ideal strategic partner for us in that it is internationally recognized, assuring wine consumers the world over that our wines are coming from a place that cares about the healthy development of the agricultural community in South Africa and in the empowerment of its workforce. (For more information on why Fairtrade is important to wine grape growers and workers, click here.)
What impact does Fairtrade have?
For the farms producing Stonedance wines, we have seen so many amazing projects materialize over the last few years, both short- and long-term projects. My personal favorite is the opening of the Masakane Daycare Center, a center that provides care and educational support for children in the community between the ages of 3 months and 6 years. Workers voted to build the center using Fairtrade Premium funds, a community development fund based on sales of Fairtrade wine. The Masakane Daycare is not only giving children the basic right to education, but is also enabling the parents to work and further their economic development and the lives of their children and future generations.
Additionally, Fairtrade is helping our farm communities who elect to dedicate Fairtrade Premium toward training programs that enable members to learn new skills, new health care centers, and solar heating tanks for hot water in the communities where workers live. We have also seen the workforce rewarded with shares in the farms they work for as part of the cooperative supporting the production of Stonedance wines. Fairtrade has had a significant impact on these communities. Without a doubt, the lives of the community members there have improved in many ways!
What wines do you offer as Fairtrade?
Stonedance offers a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Shiraz, and a Sauvignon Blanc here in the US. We also have a Chenin Blanc and a Rosé that are currently only available in South Africa. Though we will be bringing both across to the US next year! We plan to offer a number of new varietals in the coming years that we think American wine enthusiasts will enjoy.
What are your favorite pairings for Stonedance wines?
With the Cabernet Sauvignon…anything on the grill – ribs would be really good with this one! The Shiraz can take a bit of spice so maybe some spicy sausage or lamb. And if you’re going to be enjoying the Sauvignon Blanc, any grilled fish or salad – this time of year a gazpacho would be great as well.
We have initially launched these wines through New Dawn, our online wine shop. We wanted to be able to get these wines out to as many people as possible, in as many states as possible, so the online channel seemed a logical first step.
In addition, we will also launch across retail outlets in Colorado beginning in September and are in discussions with a number of retail partners and distributors to take the brand national as quickly as possible. Our view is the sooner we can build an audience for Stonedance wines, the sooner workers can re-invest even more premiums into the community and build a better tomorrow.
We’re in this together
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