placeValle Central, Chile

Vinos Lautaro

  • cooperative of 22 small-scale winegrowers in Chile
  • makes its voice heard in the international debate on (fair) trade
  • has supplied Oxfam directly with red and white wine for over 20 years

Benefiting winegrowers in Chile

In one of Chile’s most famous wine regions, Valle de Curicó, lies the small village of Vinos Lautaro. The cooperative of the same name unites 21 winegrowers who now sell their fair-trade wine collectively. Thanks to their collaboration with fair-trade clients across the world, the cooperative can pay its producers a good price for their wine grapes.

Vinos Lautaro has been a reliable partner of Oxfam-Wereldwinkels (info in Dutch) ever since the cooperative’s founding in 1997. It is thanks to successful partnerships like this, and the fine teamwork of the cooperative’s members, that the disadvantaged winegrowers were able to take giant leaps forward. In fact, the whole community quickly experienced the benefits of fair trade. For years, Vinos Lautaro has served as a model for other farmers in the region.

Fair trade: more than an economic success story

The cooperative Vinos Lautaro helps its winegrowers to earn a living wage through the production of quality wines.

They also avail of the fair trade premium (info in Dutch) to lend them support in a number of ways:

  • Basic needs such as health care and higher education are largely privatised in Chile and thus expensive. Vinos Lautaro helps members with financial difficulties.
  • The cooperative keeps a ‘solidarity fund’ that can be used in the event of frost or water damage. This fund was also used to help members in need following the severe earthquake in 2010.
  • The farmers buy agricultural products together, receiving better prices by buying in large quantities.

But Vinos Lautaro goes beyond the economic aspects of the business. The cooperative also values the exchange of knowledge among the producers. And it regularly organises informal, socio-cultural activities for its members. This promotes a sense of group solidarity.

Giving small-scale farmers a voice

Vinos Lautaro is also committed to the interests of small-scale agricultural producers beyond its own cooperative. Both in Chile as well as internationally, this small cooperative plays a prominent role as part of the fair trade movement.

ProChile recognised this by awarding them the ‘prize for valued export company for small-scale producers’. And at the annual general meeting of the CLAC (the network of fair trade producers in Latin America), Vinos Lautaro received explicit acknowledgement for its efforts in putting fair trade on the (world) map.

There were six of us at home and we occasionally went without food. What did we know of the world? If the boss spoke to us, we would answer with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without looking up. Fair trade and Oxfam taught us to think for ourselves.

Clorindo, Vinos Lautaro

Great wines from a small, fair-trade cooperative

As a small cooperative, Vinos Lautaro is not able to process its own grapes to produce wine. Instead it has had to form strategic alliances with a winery and a bottling plant.

Oxfam supports the cooperative in the improvement of its own wine knowledge and in its continued improvements in quality. To this end, the cooperative has invested in stainless steel wine vats and in oak casks for its (gran) reserva wines.

The vineyards of two Vinos Lautaro members are already certified organic. They supply the grapes for Oxfam Fair Trade’s Lautaro organic wines (info in Dutch). Vinos Lautaro is looking to make further inroads into organic cultivation. Needless to say, with ambitions like these it has a trusty ally in Oxfam.

In addition, they are investing in more efficient watering. Previously, growers worked solely with river irrigation. In this, rivers are drained and flow through the fields, watering everything. Recently, more and more members are shifting towards drip irrigation that only waters the vines. Solar panels and a pump control the irrigation system.

Vinos Lautaro & Oxfam

  • Oxfam Fair Trade and Vinos Lautaro already crossed paths in 1997 (info in Dutch). In Chile after the fall of Pinochet, the newly founded Vinos Lautaro cooperative was in search of its first overseas clients. And, happily, Oxfam was on the lookout for new wine producers.
  • Oxfam supports these small-scale farmers in their fight for survival (info in Dutch) against the giants of the Chilean wine market. In addition to a vital revenue stream, we offer them alternative financing, advice in various areas of expertise, solidarity and a listening ear on the other side of the ocean.
  • Vinos Lautaro is Oxfam’s biggest supplier in terms of volume. In addition to the Lautaro wines, the cooperative also produces some of Oxfam Fair Trade’s quality table wines.