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Bernard Fontannaz slams wine critics who claim Fairtrade wines should "overdeliver"

Published:  12 March, 2014

Fairtrade wine pioneer Bernard Fontannaz has called for a level playing field for Fairtrade wines, after criticism that the wines should "overdeliver" on quality.

Bernard FontannazBernard FontannazOrigin Wine's Bernard Fontannaz isn't seeking special treatment for Fairtrade wines, but wants them to be scrutinised in the same way as other wines.

Fontannaz, who runs Origin Wine which makes South Africa's Fairhills range, said the criticism was unfair and "like shooting an ambulance". "We don't want special treatment, but I don't think we should be scrutinised more than other wines."

He said he was "amazed" when wine writers criticised the quality of Fairtrade wines, saying  they should "overdeliver". "They [critics] seem to put higher expectations on Fairtrade wine than others. It should be treated like any other wine - there will always be good, bad and average ones. We need to get past this stigma," he said.

"Fairtrade already overdelivers on the social dimension, and it has to prove itself [on quality] like any other wine. It shouldn't be asked to do more. It seems unfair. When people try to do good, you shouldn't cut them slack, but you should judge them on the same level as any other."

He said critics should compare like with like, rather than a £12.99 bottle with a £6.99 one, as "the quality ratio increases a lot faster on a higher priced wine".

He also called on more wine brands to embrace Fairtrade as a means of doing business, saying, "at 10p a bottle I don't think it will make or break a brand - it's minute".

Fontannaz pointed out that Fairtrade wines had still managed to grow in the difficult economic climate when the wine category overall is not, and called on the trade to "have courage and support it further".

* See our Q&A section for a follow-up interview with Bernard Fontannaz.