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Interview of Gabriela Furlotti (Soluna Wines)

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The World Argentina

Interview of

Gabriela Furlotti

Gabriela Furlotti is the Manager of Soluna Wines which production is certified by the FLO (Fairtrade Labelling Organization). This 100% Fairtrade commitment means that every bottle of Soluna will enable to directly embetter the life conditions of the small farmers whom they work with. Interview.
Hello Gabriela. First of all, can you present the different entities: Furlotti, Vina de la Solidaridad and Soluna?
The concept is divided in three units:
- BodegaFurlotti is the production site of our wine. 100,000 bottles are produced yearly. It is the smallest Bodega of Mendoza;
- Vina de la Solidaridad is a non-profit making association constituted by 19 small producers and contratistas whom grapes we buy. Besides being farm workers, the contratistas live on the lands with their family. Their income consists in a percentage of the product of the harvest of the grapes. Unfortunately, the crisis in 2001 and the devaluation of the peso deeply affected this status. The number of contratistas decreased from 12,000 to 4,000 in ten years;

- Soluna is the name of the wine, our brand, that is exclusively produced with grapes bought from the association Vina de la Solidaridad. Sol and Luna are the Spanish words for Sun and Moon, that are our logo. The latter represents the link between rich and poor countries.

How did the idea of such a project appear?
You know, in Argentina, nobody cares about small farmers. One is more interested in bodegas, oenologists... One stresses more on the glamourous side of the wine, whereas the people who have been working in the vineyards for decades are completely ignored. Thus the idea has come to help and protect the small producers by gathering them.
Moreover cities are getting taller and taller and reduce little by little the part of the farmland. Only 5% of the region of Mendoza is cultivated, and a small part is dedicated to viticulture. Here, we are surrounded by villas, whereas 20 years ago there were plenty of little vineyards one alongside the other. Gated Communities have taken the place of the vines.
But even if this land is good for wine, the viticulture cannot fight against urbanization as there is no regulation about this. Here you can do whatever you want and build a house in the middle of the vineyards. These lands are not protected.
Unfortunately 99.9% of the small producers are close to the town and own less than 1 hectare to cultivate which is tiny and very difficult to make profitable. And with the economic diffculties they have to face, a lot choose to sell their lands for next to nothing in order to pay off their loan or to simply survive. For them, viticulture is not profitable.
Thus our project is to help them this way.

Have you noticed a change in the way the notion
of Fairtrade is understood here?

Here, people do not consume Fairtrade products and you will not find them in supermarkets. If you speak about this concept to an Argentinian he will look at you in a strange way and ask you "What's that?". People go to the supermarket to buy essential things and the cheapest, as everything is expensive. And our economic situation is very different from more developped countries. It is like Maslow's pyramid, if you satisfy basic needs then only can you climb to the higher level.
The Fairtrade products are dedicated to more developped countries. Soluna is intended for export only: England which is very interested in this fair label, as well as Holland, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, the biggest market being in the United State.

How do you selected the farmers
that well enter your association?

They have to fulfill certain criteria, and especially following the rules decreeded by the FLO:
- the lands exploited by the producer have to cover less than 10 hectares and be totally dedicated to viticulture;
- to employ children under 15 is forbidden : they must neither work in the vineyards nor help during the harvest... Children over 15 are protected against working conditions that might be harmful for their health or their education;
- the incomings have to help pay social security;
- moreover, the producers are not allowed to use pesticides and have to store their fertilizer in a special place and not in their house.
Producing wine with a Fairtrade process does not necessarily mean produce 'organic', but the concept is eco-friendly all the same.

Do you notice improvements
in the life conditions of the farmers?

The very principle of Fairtrade is to aim at the certainty that everyone earns a wage in accordance with the work that has been done.
We buy the grapes at a fair price that is not indexed to the local or international market prices. To that may be added a social bonus that will be invested in education, health or other social projects that will be beneficial to the whole community.
However, there is something I would really like to underline... What I could notice during the last five years with this project is something more important than money: learning to work together, realizing the benefits and pride of belonging to a group, being proud of working has a grape producer.
I do not know if it is different in France but here, in Argentina, people do not have the culture of "doing together" and work jointly . So for us, succeeding in this project is important.

May 2010 – Mendoza, Argentina

Interview and translation by Lila Corre, student at ESC Dijon and member of the association ESC’prit d’Aventure.
For further information on Soluna Wines, visit their website:

If you want to learn more on ESC’prit d’Aventure
and Bodega Furlotti's meeting, contact Lila Corre: