Archive for the ‘Labour’ Category

Photo by Anthony Two Moons.

Photo by Anthony Two Moons.

From Santa Barbara to British Columbia, Native American vineyards are a growing business

When the first wine grapes were planted in California by Spanish missionaries in the late 1700s, the Chumash people’s economic empire extended from the Malibu shores through Santa Barbara to the Paso Robles plains. But by the time the modern wine industry emerged on the Central Coast a couple centuries later, the Chumash were struggling, much like many Native American tribes. The few dozen who managed to achieve federal recognition as the Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians were left with a little slice of land, where most residents lived below the poverty line.

Fast forward to today, and the Chumash are once again propsering, thanks to a successful casino and resort they built on their Santa Ynez Valley reservation in 2004. Six years later, with hopes of expanding their reservation, the 154-member tribe bought a nearby 1,400-acre property for a reported $40 million from the late actor-turned-vintner Fess Parker. The land came with 256 acres of vines, the Camp Four Vineyard, planted with 19 different grape varieties. While honoring existing contracts for the fruit (one-third of it goes to the Parker family’s brands, while most of the rest is sold to about 70 small producers from all around the state), the Chumash started making their own wine, and released their first vintages of Kitá Wines last month.

While the project is the latest in a small but growing number of Native American tribes entering the wine business—including three in Northern California, one in Arizona, and one in British Columbia—the Chumash are the first to tap one of their own to run the show: Tara Gomez, the 40-year-old daughter of the tribe’s vice chairman, is the first head winemaker of Native American descent on the continent.
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Raging california wildfire!

Raging California wildfire do not stop agricultural work!

 

A group of farm laborers who chose to seek shelter from the suffocating smoke of a California wildfire last week were terminated for taking a break.

At least 15 workers at Crisalida Farms in Oxnard, California, found themselves struggling to breathe last week as the Camarillo Springs wildfire blackened the sky with smoke and ash. The blaze damaged more than a dozen houses, threatened 4,000 homes, and burned a store of highly toxic pesticides that caught fire at an agricultural property.

Located just 11 miles south of the fire, workers at the Southern California strawberry farm had a difficult time breathing as they laboriously worked in the fields. Their boss had warned them that taking a break would compromise their jobs, and they were faced with a dilemma.

“The ashes were falling on top of us,” one of the workers told NBC LA. “[But] they told us if we leave, there would be no job to return to.”

On the evening of May 2, the Camarillo fire had reached about 10,000 acres and was only 10 percent contained. About 11,500 people had been evacuated at this point as hazmat teams warned locals not to inhale the smoke – especially since it contained toxic chemicals from the pesticides that had caught on fire.

 

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Global farmer-assistance program extends help to grapegrowers in Argentina, Chile and South Africa

When a small grapegrower in Argentina’s Luján de Cuyo district needed a kidney operation, his fellow farmers dipped into a shared fund to help pay for it. When another grower’s donkey died, the fund was tapped to buy him a new one. These 19 farmers, some of whom own as little as 3 acres, also invested in their vineyards, replaced roofs on their homes and provided supplies for the local school.

At a time when so many of their fellow small growers in Mendoza have been squeezed out, how did the landowners and vineyard workers, part of a group called Viña de la Solidaridad, manage all that? Viña de la Solidaridad had earned an extra $40,000 for these projects by participating in a fair-trade program, intended to fight poverty in developing nations, keep families on small farms and empower workers. Working with Bodega Furlotti, the growers earn a premium above-market price by supplying grapes for fair-trade wine lines, including Neu Direction Malbec, which was picked up by retail giant Sam’s Club.

“There was a real need from these communities for additional revenue to help improve their situation,” said Dave Leenay, executive vice president for sales for Prestige Wine Group, the U.S. importer instrumental in developing Neu Direction, along with Wandering Grape Merlot-Malbec, carried by Target. “And there was a need from the big corporations to talk about their commitment to helping be more sustainable and improving people’s lives.”

Best known for coffee, as well as bananas, tea and cocoa, the fair-trade movement is taking hold in the U.S. wine market, with a tiny but growing presence among imports from Argentina, Chile and South Africa. Purchases by large companies such as Whole Foods Market, Wal-Mart and American Airlines have helped give the category momentum.

 

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Durbanville Hills cellar 01

 

 

From its first vintage 15 years ago, Durbanville Hills Wines, which is located on the Tygerberg Hills and overlooks Table Mountain and Table Bay, has produced some of the best received super premium wines in the country.

Cellar master Martin Moore, who was appointed in 1998 when the cellar was still in the early stages of construction, reminisces fondly of the first vintage and the memorable wines produced in 1999.

“When the first grapes were delivered to the presses, work had not even started on that part of the building which today houses the maturation cellar, restaurant and wine-tasting area.

“But regardless of the challenges both the Luipaardsberg Merlot and the Biesjes Craal Sauvignon blanc from our first vintage received double gold at Veritas while the Durbanville Hills Chardonnay was awarded gold. During that first vintage just over 3 000 tons of grapes were pressed. Within a few short years production moved up to reach the cellar’s full capacity of 8 000 tons,” says Moore.

“Over the years we have extended our product range to showcase the diverse terroir of the area. During the 15 years we have created a number of what I believe are quite remarkable wines; wines which in my view truly capture the unique flavour spectrum found on our valley slopes.”

Durbanville Hills has over the years become particularly known for its top-quality Sauvignon blanc, due also to the cool-climate location of its production units which all enjoy ideal conditions for growing this cultivar.

“During the summer months and then mostly in the late afternoon, the southeaster , blows off False Bay over the Cape Flats, bringing with it cool, moist air. The wind is surprisingly cold as it comes sweeping over the contours of the hills, cooling down the vineyards even on the hottest day. And when the southeaster is not blowing, a westerly wind coming off the cold Atlantic produces the same results,” says Moore.

Sauvignon blanc is represented across the cellar’s three wine ranges. All of them regularly receive awards at national and international competitions. Although the wines can be enjoyed immediately, the winery’s Sauvignon blancs are known for their longevity, with the Biesjes Craal in particular lasting for up to ten years.

The wines are available from the cellar and leading liquor outlets and retail for about R52 in the case of the 2012 Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc and R85 for the 2012 Rhinofields Sauvignon Blanc while you should expect to pay about R115 for the 2012 Biesjes Craal Sauvignon Blanc.

 

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(image courtesy of Aletta Gardner/EWN)

(image courtesy of Aletta Gardner/EWN)

 

As the smoke clears after the unrest in various fruit-growing areas of the Western Cape, and with the next round of protests demanding higher wages for farm labourers and seasonal pickers on its way, the South African wine industry is weighing up the implications to its business model and to the way of life for many among the vineyards.

 

To date, the strike for an increase in the minimum wage from R69 to R150 a day – which has involved the intimidation of farmers and their full-time employees, looting, the destruction of property and the loss of life – has largely been confined to fruit farms that do not produce grapes for making wine.

But with cellars gearing up for the 2013 harvest and the pay dispute apparently no closer to resolution than it was when violence broke out in De Doorns, Wolseley, Grabouw and elsewhere last year, it seems inevitable that more wine farms – especially those using part-time workers – will soon become the focus of attention for the strike leaders as well as the political and criminal factions seeking to gain from the protests.

Should the wine grape harvest this year be seriously disrupted, it is a very real possibility that some farmers could go out of business.

Many will be among those whose only source of income comes from the grapes they sell to wine producers and whose business model revolves around low prices and large tonnage. Others up against the wall will be those making or selling wine whose success hinges more on offering the best prices than it does on the best quality, and who operate in sectors of the market where branding is not a factor.

On the other hand, the South African wine industry also comprises large corporations as well as a number of private wine farm owners with the means to weather the storm.

Many of these stakeholders are already paying way better than the minimum wage while providing their staff with decent accommodation and more, such as crèche and church facilities.

But of as much concern to these stakeholders as the cost implications of having to pay more to their workers or hiring fewer people and opting for increased mechanisation is the straining of the relationships they have with the farm hands and how to embrace a business model revolving more around quality and branding rather than tending to play the price card.

 

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Protest action on farms during the heart of the picking season will severely hurt the sustainability of farms and could result in job losses, the farmers’ union federation Asuf said on Friday.


The Agri-sector Unity Forum said that ongoing labour unrest in the Western Cape’s fruit producing regions will impact negatively on production, the ability to serve local and international markets and the viability of farms.

“The knock-on effects of higher food prices and retrenchment of workers will follow as enterprises are forced to either or close down,” said Asuf in a statement.

The umbrella body, who represents all major agricultural unions, said the mechanisation or venture into less labour intensive industries would inevitably lead to greater unemployment.

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Strikers were turning away trucks and buses in the Wolesley area to stop non-striking farm workers from going to work on Wednesday, SABC radio news reports.

They had also closed a road into a nearby township.

It was also reported that farmers in the Hex River Valley had employed private security personnel to protect their property against strikers.

Western Cape farmworkers went on strike last year, demanding that their daily wages be increased from R69 to R150. They also wanted a coherent land reform programme.
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WINE producers are on tenterhooks amid hopes that a good 2012-13 crop could boost exports and help offset other issues in the industry.

Industrial action last month led to the death of two people and caused damage worth about R100m in the Western Cape. Farm workers were demanding an increase in their daily wage from R69 to R150.

The strikes are due to start again on January 9, which is also meant to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Land Act that confined black people to only 13% of the country’s land mass.

Wines of South Africa chairman Johann Krige said yesterday it was still too early to tell if there would be a bumper crop. “We have had a reasonable hot spell for about a week and it is too early to say what impact that would have on the current crop,” Mr Krige said.

Last week, the South African Wine Industry Information and Systems (Sawis) said the current crop would be… read on

 

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Happy New Year! Now the festivities are over and the crystal glasses are back in the cupboard, it’s time to take out the crystal ball. Here are 10 of the most significant wine trends to watch for in 2013:

 

1. Bull market for consumption:

It may not be a bull market for much in the United States these days, but it’s a bull market for wine consumption. The year just finished may well mark the 19th consecutive 12-month period of growth in per capita consumption, resulting in the U.S. becoming the largest wine market in the world (though it remains a mere middleweight in per capita terms). Wine is hot; wine is the new black.

While Baby Boomers may reach for familiar selections, the youngest wine consumers – the Millennials – show a strong interest in wines and a curiosity to try them from many different regions or grapes.

2. The winter of wine critics:

These same Millennials are different from their elders in how they get wine recommendations – they rely on friends (both online and offline) and store clerks more than they value the opinions of the critics who have guided consumers over the past three decades. America today boasts one of the most knowledgeable wine-buying populations in the world, leading to the profusion of blogs and tweets and status updates about wine. While point-spewing critics may have helped create this knowledge base, increasingly savvy consumers are looking elsewhere for recommendations.

3. The threat of craft beer:

The rise of craft beer in America is a tremendously exciting story. While the makers of macro brews keep buying one another and consolidating in a time of flat suds, the micro brewers are experiencing 16-percent growth. Younger buyers are attracted to the beers that actually have flavor profiles, rather than ones that simply slake a summer thirst or wash down wings.

With cicerones (beer sommeliers) popping up at restaurants, and with beer’s perceived relative value-for-money status, it’s no surprise that the San Francisco-based news website SF Weekly recently wrote: “Craft beer is overtaking wine as San Francisco’s beverage of choice.” Craft beer and a less-than-robust economy pose the biggest threat to the bull market in American wine consumption.

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2004-Killer-del-Brunello

 

Former employee motivated by revenge.

Italian police on Tuesday arrested a former employee of the Brunello di Montalcino winery Case Basse for draining barrels worth millions of euros in a case that has shaken up the tranquil Tuscan hills.

Andrea Di Gisi was caught after police bugged his car. They heard him telling his nephew he had washed wine stains off the jeans he wore on the night he broke into the cellar at the Case Basse château.

Police said De Gisi had acted out of… read on

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