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7:00am Saturday 3rd March 2012 in Lifestyle
Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris raises a glass to some ethical wines ahead of Fairtrade Fortnight (February 27 - March 11).
Fairtrade Fortnight is the perfect time for wine lovers to sip for a good cause.
The initiative provides fairer income to small-scale growers from sunny wineries in South Africa and South America, who with a co-operative to support them can help plough money back into the community.
The iconic blue and green Fairtrade tag signals some great value vino that tastes rather good, and it's fitting to know these wines keep doing good long after the glass has reached the bottle bank.
For a terrific midweek drinker that's destined to fly off the shelves, try The Co-operative Fairtrade Cinsault Shiraz, SA (£4.99, The Co-op). A full-bodied, confident and memorable red, with pungent berry notes that don't overpower the taste, and a delightfully polished finish, it's a super foodie's red and a steal at under a fiver.
Carrying on the supermarket sweep, Tesco has put Fairhills, the world's largest Fairtrade wine brand, on its shelves. Try Fairhills Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot 2011, SA (£4.99 from £7.79, until March 13, Tesco) for a soft, spicy wine that's packed with jammy raspberry fruit, a hint of black pepper and subtle tannins on the dry finish.
Waitrose has championed the cause with two delicious offerings from Argentina's leading Fairtrade producer, Tilimuqui.
For a fresh and fruity glass with lasting appeal, try Tilimuqui Single Vineyard Fairtrade Organic Torrontes 2010, La Rioja, Argentina (£5.59 from £6.99, until March 20, Waitrose). Balanced and aromatic, torrontes is Argentina's answer to pinot grigio and this crisp white with delicate citrus flavours is much riper than a neutral Italian variety.
In the same vein, Tilimuqui Single Vineyard Fairtrade Organic Cabernet Sauvignon Bonarda 2011, La Rioja, Argentina (£5.59 from £6.99, until March 20, Waitrose) has been bolstered with a measure of the bonarda grape to add some interest to this peppery red. With a herbal element, some underlying eucalyptus, smooth tannins and a silky mouthfeel, it hits the right notes at an affordable price.
Sainsbury's has launched a new Taste the Difference Morador Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (£5.99 from £7.99, until March 13, Sainsbury's), which is a real corker if you love a punchy red. Powerful with brambly fruit flavours, layers of chocolate and vanilla spice, smooth tannins and a light dusting of spice, it's perfect to enjoy with a Sunday roast.
Beyond the larger retailers, specialist wine merchants are also good hunting ground for Fairtrade labels to help bring better social benefits to workers in the developing world.
Koopmanskloof is one of the biggest Fairtrade producers in the famous Stellenbosch region, and it's worth knocking on its cellar door if you're a member of The Wine Society. Try Koopmanskloof Fairtrade Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2011, Stellenbosch, SA (£6.75, www.thewinesociety.com) for a delicious glass that's overflowing with apple and citrus flavours. Unoaked, it's bright and fresh with a whisper of grapefruit and good acidity.
Another shining example, in 2003 Thandi became the first wine brand in the world to receive Fairtrade accreditation. For a rewarding glass from one of South Africa's premier wine regions, try Thandi Fairtrade Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Elgin, SA (£6.25, www.thewinesociety.com). Dense with a forest floor of rich berry fruits, ripe cassis, vanilla, spice and pepper with lively tannins, it's a spicy berry compote that cries out for food. Enjoy with a bowl of chilli con carne for a casual supper.
Corney & Barrow keeps the verve flowing with its Santa Florentina Organic Unwooded Chardonnay Fairtrade 2011, Famatina Valley, Argentina (£7.69, www.corneyandbarrow.com). Super fresh with great purity, the tropical fruit flavours and honeysuckle nose are a great reminder that spring is just around the corner.
Higher up the price scale, eco-conscious drinkers can always opt for an organic wine to complement their natural, planet-friendly menu.
Try the terrific Saint-Veran Domaine de la Croix Senaillet 2009, Burgundy, France (£11.83, www.goedhuis.com) for an unoaked blonde beauty made with 100% organic chardonnay grapes. Concentrated with citrus-scented fruit, it bursts on to the tongue and is exceptionally fresh.
As with most pretty French wine labels, don't be surprised if the rows of grapes on the front of this Saint-Veran bottle make you want to roll up your sleeves, take to the fields and be a winemaker for the day.
Best buy Famed for its "first class, top dressing malt", whisky noses should snap up a bottle of The Macallan 10-Year-Old Speyside Malt Whisky (£29.99 from £34.99, until March 20) while it's on special offer at Waitrose, with a saving of £5.
Liquid news Royal warrant holder Berry Bros & Rudd has reported record sales for 2011, and the 300-year-old wine merchant has sky rocketed to become the internet's biggest specialist wine retailer. BBR's website lists more than 3,000 wines and saw sales of £12 million in 2011, up 7% on 2010. To keep up to date with the latest wine news as it happens, follow @berrybrosrudd on Twitter, and for more information, visit www.bbr.com