We’ve all played Drink While You Think, but here’s how to add a new, selfless twist to the classic boozing game. In this all-new, conscientious version, Think While You Drink allows you to purchase wine confidently knowing the bodega has made a social or environmental commitment. Sometimes its wine is Fairtrade or the winery in question donates a percentage of profits to a worthy cause. It’s malbec with morals, sipping with scruples, consider it your duty to drink.
Though Argentina is very much a Fair-trade wine producer along with Chile and South Africa, most Fair-trade wares are exported to the UK and Europe so we never get to exert conscientious purchasing power. Until last year, when Bodega Alta Vista launched Finca Monteflores onto the domestic market, making it the first Argentine comercio justo wine to be produced and sold here.
A bit of a pioneer in the Fair-trade sector given that the winery started working towards FT status in 2009, and achieved certification in 2011, Alta Vista’s adherence to Fair trade’s stringent social and environmental rules during the production process means it supports Asociación Civil Flores del Monte, a 60-family community comprising around 220 people across five grape-growing zones in Mendoza.
And if you have any doubts over quality, rest assured that half of this extremely drinkable Malbec was aged in French oak barrels for a year before resting in bottle for four months prior to its market release. You can order yours from Las Pizarras and Renato Cucina restaurants or snap it up from Pain & Vin wine store in Buenos Aires, among others.
Matiás Michelini’s Diverso
While the Michelini family’s multi-faceted wine-making empire, which includes Zorzal Wines, Passionate Wine and SuperUco in Mendoza’s Uco Valley, appears to be a money-making machine, one of their projects in particular religiously donates a percentage of its profits. Diverso, a two-strong ecological wine project within Passionate Wine, is led by Matías Michelini and gives 30 percent of its profit to help educational entities in the Tupungato area; last year it backed a rural school in the La Carrera district of Mendoza.
As Whitney once warbled, children are our future but Diverso doesn’t just help out humans. It also has an environmental conscience as the label itself is made from recycled material, with some of the bottles being made from recycled glass.
Choose between Diverso Syrah 2013, a natural wine fermented and aged in concrete eggs for 12 months and Diverso Merlot 2012, which has been through the same process.
Available from Ozono Drinks, 295 pesos.
Drinking for anteaters
We’ve helped families who work in viniculture and children attending rural schools and now let’s turn to wildlife, specifically a curious-looking mammal with an even more curious diet. In collaboration with Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina, Finca Los Maza decided to produce Oso Hormiguero as a vinified tribute to the anteater. A native of the Gran Chaco Americano – one of South America’s largest forests – the vermilingua’s natural habitat has been put at risk over the past century due to deforestation. Finca Los Maza donates 12 percent of profits made from its Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals, which go directly towards maintaining a 3,000-hectare nature reserve in northern Argentina. This is an especially worthy cause when we note the two million hectares that were lost in the past 15 years alone as forests are sacrificed for farmland.
A bright ruby color, the 2012 Malbec is juicy, with plenty of red cherry on the nose and mouth. With 10 months in French oak, you’ll enjoy its fresh acidity and prominent fruit thanks to grapes sourced from La Consulta, Uco Valley, as well its bright yellow label sporting an inquisitive ant-devouring snout.
Meanwhile, various bodegas are involved in long-term projects aimed at helping out their communities and staff. Uco Valley-based winery Finca Suarez set up a sports club as a way of giving something back to the land and local community. This fourth-generation-run bodega donated five hectares to create Angélica Civit de Suárez Sports Club, an initiative spearheaded by current winemaker Juanfa Suarez’s grandfather Facundo Suárez Civit.
Also remember that every time you sip an Amalaya rosé or Colomé Torrontés that you’re helping the Salta-based bodega comply with its social commitment to the local community. The village of Colomé itself is very rural – it takes the best part of an hour to drive a 20km- dirt track from nearest town Molinos – and wine has been made in this area for more than 165 years. The winery, owned by Hess Family, set up Colomé Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on educating women and children on matters relating to health and nutrition as well as training them with a craft.
Additionally, winemaking giants Bodega Norton and Familia Zuccardi are both socially responsible. Norton’s Finalidad Educativa program helps the bodega’s employees and families finish primary and secondary education, working with Mendoza province’s Schools Directorate. While, Familia Zuccardi built a Cultural and Recreation Center that offers music and singing classes as well as development opportunities like computer training classes for its staff and their families.
From wine to water
Okay so it’s not wine, but you can purchase H20 with a conscience. Argentine TV star Julián Weich – a UNICEF ambassador since 1992 – launched Conciencia three years ago, a mineral water that donates 50 percent of its profits to various NGOs like Fundación Garrahan (the people who like your plastic bottle tops) and Fundación Sí.
Available from Jumbo and Open 25 Horas! kiosks.
There you have it. Pop open a bottle and do some good.