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The growing popularity of Malbec, New Zealand Pinot Noir, biodynamic viticulture, citizen wine blogging, waning influence of uber-critic Robert Parker, and $10 wines are just a few of the trends shaping the wine scene of tomorrow.

Another notable trend having an impact, although admittedly small right now, is the growing prominence of social responsibility within the wine industry with an emphasis on fair and equitable treatment of the folks on the very front of the wine life cycle.

One ‘relatively new’ form of social responsibility making it’s way in to the wine industry is Fair Trade.  For those unfamiliar with the concept, Fair Trade products support farmers in emerging/developing nations through ethical treatment, fair prices, environmental stewardship, and community development.  I’ve had Fair Trade coffee, sugar, and chocolate, but never Fair Trade wine, until a few weeks ago…

As I’m roaming around Sam’s Club one Saturday afternoon loading up on food samples, I noticed a huge yellow, star-shaped shelf taker in the wine section touting their ‘new’ Fair Trade wine (new to this area) –  Neu Direction Malbec.

Neu Direction Malbec benefits the local farmers of Viña de la Solidaridad (Vine of Solidarity), an association based on preserving the rich, cultural heritage of the contratista-landowner relationship.  Ten small vineyard owners and nine contratistas make up the association.  The contratistas lives on the land with their families and are paid a percentage of the grape harvest by the vineyard owners.  The association currently owns 200 acres of vineyards with about a third certified organic, with plans to convert more over the coming years.  ~ Organic Wine Trade website

Neu Direction is produced by Bodega Furlotti S.A., from Mendoza, Argentina.  This wine is certified Fair Trade based on standards established by TransFair, the only independent third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the US.  2008 was the first year of the TransFair certification program.

Neu Direction 2006 Malbec – As a general rule, I try to avoid spending my wine dollars at big box stores, especially at Sam’s Club, but at just $9.99 for this wine, I went for it.  Deep purple in the glass, this wine showed basic dark fruits, licorice and earth.  Mild tannins with flavors of a blueberry, blackberry, and plum pie baked in a wood burning oven.  An ‘ok’ Malbec, reasonably priced, with a great mission!

With just 4.3 million bottles of Fair Trade wine sold, this movement is clearly in its infancy, with a lot of room to grow.

Curious if others have had experience with Fair Trade wines.  If so, leave a comment with your thoughts or any recommendations.