Walk into any retail store to pick up wine and you will be face with bottles covered in all kinds of stickers like some acne plastered teenage face.Instead of being repulsed by this, producers hope consumers will grab the most-covered bottle and pop it open like a blind pimple. Creamy and full bodied, just the way everybody loves it, right?
Most of these stickers represent some kind of capitalist-driven-award the wine received from a bunch a wine judges with palates so develop that they can taste the sweat of the workers who harvest it. Personally I think all award stickers should be banned from wine bottles. It’s becoming a freak show for the consumer.
At a recent braai I asked the guys around the fire if the stickers on the bottles influence their purchase. The majority were not phased and were more brand loyal than anything else. Two actually said they will rather buy a stickerless bottle as the awarded bottles are often over complex and too serious. The reality is that taste is relative. Thank god for that!
But not all stickers represent award shows. Some are seals of approval, like the Biodiversity seal which indicates if the wine was made in an eco-friendly way. This is cool right? We do not what to screw-up the planet, like Ale Gore warned us. Let’s support the producers that practice responsible farming, although recent studies showed that even this we don’t give a damn about. Stickers, seals, awards, it’s all lost on us.
So last week I attend the launch of another seal, the Wine & Agricultural Ethical Trade Association seal (in short WIETA). It tells us that the employees who worked their fingers to the bone to help make the wine were treated ethically by their employers. It precludes the use of child labour, asserts that employment should be freely chosen and that all employees should have the right to a healthy and safe working environment. Amongst the conditions it sets are that workers should have the right to freedom of association, a living wage and to be protected from unfair discrimination. Worker housing and tenure security rights should also be respected.
The South African wine industry currently employs over 230 000 people who put their blood, sweat and tears into their jobs so we can enjoy a glass of wine. With the WIETA seal it will hopefully be just sweat in the near future.