La Riojana is one of the largest co-operative wineries in Argentina with annual production of close to 40 million litres a year.
But for our growers, their families and the communities they support, La Riojana means so much more than just the company to whom they sell their grapes.
We are linked by far more than just doing business together. We share the same history and the same backgrounds that go back through four generations to the 1940s.
To a time when 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 in 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 we know today.
We now have over 500 producer partners united by our past, with many coming from families that have been part of the co-operative since its beginning.
Collectively 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 of land each.
They are the backbone, the foundation, to the winery’s success and everything La Riojana does is based on providing help, support and services that allow our members and their families to grow and prosper in their own communities across La Rioja province.
Driving co-operative principles is 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 each and every member a higher than average market price for their grapes.
We ensure they benefit from lower prices through collective purchasing of services and products, like diesel, fertiliser and frost insurance. We offer them financial and credit support to help members through difficult times. In addition to which, we also offer our members technical and agricultural advice.
By working closely with our members, we are able to ensure that all the products produced by La Riojana (from wines, sparkling wines, grape juice, to olive oil) meet the highest quality standards expected by our international partners and customers.
La Riojana was the first Argentine winery to become a Fairtrade certified in 2006.
We have grown to be the largest and one of the most respected Fairtrade wine producers in the world providing, since 2006, over $11 million Argentine pesos of support to our members, our workers, their families and in turn to their local communities.
This has included investing in a range of vital services to our members and our workers, many of who live in remote villages with poor local facilities.
One of the most important projects was to establish a fresh running water facility, including a 160m deep well, for our members and workers living in the village of Tilimuqui who had to endure desperate summers, with temperatures as high as 40°C, without a regular water supply.
The Fairtrade Premium raised by sales of La Riojana’s Fairtrade wines, has also enabled us to build a new secondary school, giving the children of our workers and members access to a free technical secondary education, as well as the children living in the wider local community.
In 2013 we were certified as an organisation of small producers under the OPP (Organización de Pequeños Productores) programme.
Our OPP certification means that 100% of our production and our growers are Fairtrade certified.
It also means we must demonstrate the steps we are taking to ensure the economical and social development of our producers using the Fairtrade Premium.
In addition to which, being OPP certified means at least 50% of our members and 50% of our wine volumes must come from small producers.
As well as providing support through Fairtrade, La Riojana is also 100% committed to working with our members in a way that is not only sustainable to their way of life, but also the health and future of the land, the environment and the soils from which we make our wine.
We work hard to develop and implement projects that reduce our carbon footprint across the co-operative.
We were one of the first Argentine wineries to introduce a carbon neutral programme for our entire winemaking process from grape to bottle. This has involved working with our growers in the vineyard, through our transport system, to the winemaking practices we follow in the winery.
We ultimately hope these practices will allow us to become carbon negative.
To achieve this we are committed to carrying out a carbon footprint audit that allows us to analyse the impact we are making and make changes and improvements.
This has involved offsetting our carbon emissions for exporting wine to countries around the world, for example, Sweden.
La Riojana became certified as an organic producer in 2000 and has grown to become one of the country’s largest producers of organic wine.
We currently have over 345 hectares certified for organic production and organic wines make up approximately 12% of our total production, representing 44% of our European sales.
However our organic production is set to increase significantly over the coming years due to the ongoing conversion in our members’ vineyards to organic.
By 2017 we expect to see our organic production more than double.
By 2025, we expect our production to be 100% organic certified.
The 100% organic certification will be largely supported by a new and ambitious Fairtrade project, which will fund organic certification of 100% of our small-scale producers, at no cost to them.
This action will not only have a great impact on the environment, but also on a social and economic level, which in turn will benefit each family of our producers.