Grower Case Study

José Luis Juárez, La Riojana winegrower and beneficiary of the Fairtrade-funded fertiliser programme

The free fertiliser programme for La Riojana’s members, which is funded through sales of our Fairtrade wine, has been invaluable for many of our 500 plus winegrowers as it allows them to keep their vines and vineyards healthy throughout the year and from one vintage to the next.

One such beneficiary is José Luis Juárez, a 55 year-old winegrower who has been a member of La Riojana co-operative for the last 15 years, says the programme has been a great help to him on two levels.

“We have very little water, and when the plants are fertilised, it means they are much stronger and more resistant,” he explains. “Secondly, fertilisation itself is very expensive, and most small producers cannot afford such an outlay.

“The results have been very clear - we have seen how the fertilised plants have increased foliage, enjoy better health and now look more vigorous. This will eventually lead to increased production. “

Born in Chilecito, in La Rioja province, José followed in his father’s footsteps, and has worked in wine production his entire life, “For as long as I can remember I have been involved in wine growing, from working alongside my father, from whom I inherited a property, in addition to the properties I acquired myself.”

He adds: “La Riojana is the best option for producers. My father was a La Riojana co-operative member and he taught me the importance of being part of a co-operative.

We can always charge and be paid for the production we deliver to the co-operative. It also always gives us solutions and help with any needs we have.“

Six years ago, José Luis was also director of production for the municipality of Chilecito, a political role involved in government policy regarding production issues and coordinating between the public sector (the municipality) and the private sector (its wineries and, producers).  But he is now 100% focused on growing grapes and has been given the additional responsibility of running La Riojana’s bodega in Tinogasta.

José first took advantage of the Fairtrade-funded foliar fertilisers in 2014, before which time he had only used soil fertilisers.

“Since using the foliar fertilisers, we have seen increased plant growth and we have seen that the plants are not suffering from a lack of nutrients, all of which will result in better quality grapes. Over time, if the practices continue, we will have a larger production of grapes.”

He is so enthusiastic about the benefits of co-operative membership that he urges other winemakers to follow suit and do the same.

“Small producers cannot compete in the market due to their size, but being part of a co-operative means you are protected and secure that your production will be bought, and that you will receive economic compensation for it,” he says.

He hopes that wine drinkers worldwide will continue to buy La Riojana’s Fairtrade wine, and support such valuable projects. “Not only will they have the chance to enjoy the best wines in Argentina, but also their purchase means they are helping continue the investment in Fairtrade projects, benefiting more than 500 winegrowers integrated within the La Riojana co-operative.”

As life as a winegrower, José Luis’s most favourite time of year is vintage time. “I most enjoy the harvest because it is the result of a year’s hard work and the daily care of the vineyards,” he explains.

As to his future as a winegrower he says: “I would like to be able to continue producing grapes, hoping that the economic situation improves on a national level in order to continue making a living from an activity, which I enjoy so much.”

José Luis lives in the village of Anguinán, a place where he has lived all of his life and an important winegrowing area in La Rioja province, located 7 kilometres from Chilecito where La Riojana’s main winery is based. He is married with two daughters, as well as grandchildren. “I have very little free time, but when I do, I like to spend time with my family and to play with my four grandchildren.

Nothing makes him happier than the chance to enjoy his favourite meal with friends and family.

“I enjoy a good barbeque with oven-baked zucchini filled with meat, onion, garlic and cheese, just like my mother makes them.”

December 2015