Starting this December, customers of Sam’s Club, a división of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., will find a new option in the wine aisles, following the launching of Neu DirectionTM, a 100% Malbec from Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza. This is the first wine of the chain to be labeled as Fair Trade CertifiedTM.
Neu Direction is produced by Viña de la Solidaridad and Bodega Furlotti. The first is nonprofit association created in 2005, comprising 20 small estates that plant and harvest their grapes by hand. Bodega Furlotti is a family company with a history older than 100 years old in the province. With this transaction -besides the fair price paid for its grapes- the association gets a premium, which enables it to carry out social, education and health activities in its community.
This Malbec will cost around 10 dollars and will be sold in over 450 Sam’s Club stores. It displays a purplish red color and good structure. It has ripe red fruit aromas with vanilla and chocolate notes granted by oak aging. Its tannins are round and soft, its finish intense and persistent. In February 2008, it was acknowledged by the London Independent as the best Fair Trade CertifiedTM red wine in the world.
“This is a red wine that lets itself be paired with all kinds of meat. We searched for the appropriate wine in over 100 exhibitions. It is reassuring to know that we are offering our customers a product of great quality and at the same time helping family-run estates in Mendoza,” Dex McCreary, Merchandise Director of Wine, Beer and Spirits of Sam’s Club, commented.
The Fair Trade Certification guarantees producers a fair price for their grapes, allowing them to cover production costs. In the United States, this process is led by TransFair, a nonprofit organization.
The opinion of local actors
Gabriela Furlotti, Furlotti’s president, said that she is “very proud of producing in the same winery my grandfather did; with this fair trade wine, we are continuing the family tradition while also helping small producers.”
Eduardo Bertona, president of Viña de la Solidaridad, commented that he has “been a small producer all of my life, but every year it gets harder to maintain the estate and the quality of my grapes. Being part of this project gives us a lot of hope.”
According to Paul Rice, president and general director of TransFair USA, “the fact that Sam’s Club launched Neu Direction under the Fair Trade Certified program is evidence of an important leadership. The company’s commitment towards a certified wine will have a positive long-term impact among grape producers, vineyard laborers and the communities where they live and work in Argentina.”
Due to the volume involved, the United States has become one of the most important wine markets in the world. The demand there has been rising constantly. Even though the US is one of the major wine producers, in 2007 imports accounted for 31% of total sales in the country. Argentina holds a significant place among exporters, and it underwent a 30% growth this year.
Wal-Mart Argentina has fostered exports to other branches of the company around the world. Wines by Bodega Establecimiento Baudrón S.A. have been exported to Brazil and Mexico and products by Viña Fundación de Mendoza were exported to Brazil. Moreover, the company has promoted fruit exports to the United States and Mexico, as well as jam and beer exports to Brazil, among other actions.