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    What Is Ethical Winemaking?

    Wine glass

    Ethical winemaking is an umbrella term that includes organic, sustainable, biodynamic, and affordable wines made with fair trade labor. Read on to find out why ethics matter when it comes to wines and how you can pick ethical wines from the topmost wine clubs. 

    How Do Ethics Relate To Wine? 

    Curious readers may wonder, what is vegan wine? Is it technically ethical wine? Simply put, vegan wine is made without animal products or eggs. Ethical wines, on the other hand, are a little more nuanced than their vegan counterparts. These wines involve numerous parameters that ensure the winemaking process is morally correct for the vignerons, vineyards, and wine buyers. 

    Ethical wines must adhere to the following to be called so:

    • Organic: The first way to choose these wines is by choosing organic wines that are made without harming the environment. 
    • Fair-trade: The second must-have is that the labor used for winemaking, winegrowing, and wine-selling must be ethical. 
    • Sustainable: Part of organic wines, sustainability refers to an initiative taken by farmers to reduce harm on the environment such as plowing by horses or the use of eco-conscious tractors. 
    • Biodynamic: These are wines certified for their winemaking process without fining or filtering by using native yeasts.
    • Affordability: The cost of wine must not be too expensive. 

    Why Does Ethical Winemaking Matter 

    Wine made by harming the environment with fertilizers or hurting the winegrowing community with harsh conditions is not deemed ethical. 

    For instance, for all its awards and winemaking tradition, France uses 60,000 tonnes of pesticides annually (EU’s highest). On top of this startling figure, 80% of fungicides are used in vineyards in France. Moreover, service workers in the EU are often prioritized below the product quality, which adds to unfair work practices

    How South Africa is Leading the Charge 

    While there were many reports about the malicious practices in the wine industry before and during apartheid, the atmosphere for vignerons and vintners has changed by leaps and bounds in the time since. 

    Take a look at how South African groups are leading the charge in the ethical winemaking arena. 

    • Fairvalley Farm Workers Association: Established in 1997, Charles Back (the owner) and the employees of Fairvalley Estate sought permission for collective ownership on 40-acre, where 60 members of the family still live. 
    • Wine & Agricultural Industry Ethical Trade Association (WIETA): With 1,500 members, WIETA handles the implementation of the ‘ethical code of conduct’ for vignerons, cellars, producers, wineries, and unions where members are periodically audited. 
    • Fairtrade Label South Africa: This non-profit organization founded in 2008 manages and protects workers, producers, and farmers across the country. 
    • Bosman Family Vineyards: A fifth-generation vineyard focused on sustainability and community development, this winemaker boasts 350 full-time members who live on the farm. 
    • Wine Training & Certifications: The Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) and Wine Training South Africa (WTSA) offer regular workshops and certifications for participants. 

    Where To Find Ethical Wines 

    If you are thinking of switching to these unique wines, take a look at three top wine clubs with great ethical options in their catalogs. 

    Plonk Wine Club

    From Burgenland in Austria, the Plonk club offers a biodynamic wine called Umathum Sankt Laurent 2015 at $28.75 each for two bottles at a time. The medium-bodied wine is made from Saint Laurent, which is also the genetic cousin of Pinot Noir is ideal if you want to taste wines without any guilt. 

    The California Wine Club 

    For your organic wine needs, choose The California Wine Club’s Chardonnay with a limited-production of 2,500 cases from Vinnum Cellars 2017. It is organically farmed from the region of Monterey Area & North Coast and offered at $13.99 as opposed to $21.00 for members. 


    For superior vegan wine options, Winc offers 12 bottles in addition to the sustainable 2019 Cherries & Rainbows Red Wine which is available for $19.99 instead of $22.99 for members of the vegan wine club track.

    Bottom Line 

    Wine ethics is about the morality of wine growing, making, and distribution. Fortunately, buying ethical wines is straightforward thanks to wine clubs, helping you drink carefree while knowing you are promoting sustainability and community development.