Co-op Partner Spotlight: La Riojana
How did La Riojana get started?
Four generations ago, in the 1940s, our ancestors, many of whom were wine growers from Italy, first came to the area of La Rioja in north west Argentina and decided to come together to make wine.
What started out as a small bodega, buying grapes to turn to wine, slowly grew as different families made La Rioja province their home and started planting their own vines.
Hundreds of families have followed in their footsteps, all working together to share their grapes and build what has become the La Riojana co-operative.
How big is the co-op now?
We have over 500 producer partners, many from families that have been part of the co-op since its beginning. Our members help to produce over four million cases of wine a year from over 4,000 hectares of vineyards. Over 80% of them are small-scale producers, with the majority owning no more than three hectares each.
La Riojana is one of the largest co-ops in Argentina and is currently ranked the country’s third largest wine exporter by volume. But for our growers, their families and communities, La Riojana means so much more than just the company to whom they sell their grapes.
- They are the foundation to the winery’s success. Everything La Riojana does is based on providing help, support and services that allow our members and families to grow and prosper.
- Co-operative principles are the fundamental philosophy of the business. Every member gets one vote in helping decide what the overall co-operative does regardless of size.
- We guarantee to provide a higher than average market price for each member’s grapes.
- We ensure they benefit from lower prices through collective purchasing of services and products, like diesel, fertiliser and frost insurance. We offer financial and credit support to help members through difficult times. We also offer our members technical and agricultural advice.
- By working closely with our members, we are able to ensure that all our products, from wines, sparkling wines, grape juice, to olive oil, meet the highest quality standards.
Why is Fair Trade so important?
The Fair Trade Minimum Price guarantees growers and producers a fair price for their grapes, which aims to cover their average cost of sustainable production, or the market price, whichever is higher. They also receive the Fair Trade Premium, where wine producers and their commercial partners will pay additional money to help invest in social and economic initiatives in their communities.
How does La Riojana contribute to it’s community?
Argentina is still a developing country and large parts of its wine production relies on growers and their workers living and working in small, remote, rural, poor communities, with often basic local services. They are often in need of a constant water supply and clean drinking water in what can be hot, hostile and difficult conditions.
By following Fair Trade principles, we have been able to raise funds to invest in vital services, for not just our immediate La Riojana growers and workers, but for their families, friends and the wider communities in which they live.
To date, La Riojana has invested in over 30 different projects to benefit our members, workers and their families as well as our local communities. These projects include:
- Local Community Improvements
- Production Improvements
- Socio-economic improvements
- Administration & training
“Fair Trade allows us to expand our role in terms of social responsibility, it allows our workers who live in rural areas access to good standards of health and education, and also allows them to improve their general standard of living.” Rodolfo Griguol, chief winemaker
There are three projects that particularly stand out:
- The Tilimuqui water project which has brought a reliable supply of fresh drinking water for the first time to the local community where many of Riojana’s workers and their families live. This project involved the building of a deep well, a reservoir and a water storage tank to provide enough pressure to serve the wider community.
“Before the water project we only had water every so often. We now have a water tank installed in our house giving us a reliable running water supply. Our community now has drinking water 24 hours a day, every day of the year.” — Rene Alejandro Garcia, vineyard worker
- The Tilimuqui school project which funded the construction of the area’s first secondary school, therefore enabling teenage children in the area to stay in the community and has a current intake of over 400 children.
“The school has given me the opportunity to learn many new skills and a good education. When I leave school I want to study agricultural engineering and eventually work as an agricultural engineer.” — Angel Leonel Morales, Tilimuqui School student
- Construction of a new health clinic started in 2016 to bring healthcare to 10,000 people living in the villages of Tilimuqui, Malliagasta and Riojana’s wider communities.
A few words from Wine Buyer Shane Shelton:
By bringing these wines to the US and selling them exclusively to co-ops, La Riojana hopes to continue to make a positive impact. This includes creating sustainable villages with solar power and organic certification for its farms. This is great and I haven’t even got to my favorite part, the wines!
They’re fantastic! The Malbec is medium bodied and exceptionally smooth. The Chardonnay is vibrant and delicate. The Cabernet Sauvignon is smooth and fruity. The Bonarda/Malbec blend is a smooth and medium-bodied wine.
All of the wines from La Riojana are fairly priced wines of exceptional quality. When you buy La Riojana you are getting more than just a great value, you’re also helping to make positive change. From co-op to co-op!