In Vino Virtuous: Drinking Wines That Support Charities

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[Photograph: roblisameehan on Flickr]

It's a beautiful thing when you can do good simply by doing what comes naturally to you. And wine lovers have more options than ever for supporting charitable causes simply by doing what comes naturally—purchasing wine. Here are options to help you eat, drink, and be virtuous.

Vintners Charitable Cooperative

When Washington D.C.-based entrepreneur Mackie Barch fled his investment banking job to move to Argentina, his intent was merely to learn Spanish and take a break from the long hours of the i-bank grind. While in Argentina, a close friend asked him to find wines for his import business. A new business idea, the Vintners Charitable Cooperative (VCC), was born.

The wine: The wines are sourced from family-owned boutique wine producers (right now, Chappellet and D'Argenzio). The wineries change every six months. If you don't mind committing to a wine club membership, it's a good deal for good wines you otherwise might not find at your local wine store: $175 gets you two shipments direct from the winery, each with 2 to 6 bottles of wine.

The charities: VCC creates an online "storefront" for the charity, where individuals can click to purchase a wine club membership. Participating charities include: Operation Smile, Reach Out and Read, and the Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children's Cancer. The charity receives 50% of the profits.

VinoFina

Props to the crew over at DrinkMe magazine for bringing VinoFina to my attention, which supports charities and non-profits with every bottle sold.

The wine: The portfolio runs an extensive 850 small-production wines from around the globe, including many rated by Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast. You can purchase a single bottle or a case; depending on the wine purchased, anywhere from 25% to 50% of the profits go to charities.

The charities: Purchasing an excellent bottle seems easy; figuring out how to make sure your purchase benefits a particular cause you care about is difficult. But don't let that stop you.

Charity Wines

Yes, through Charity Wines you can purchase wine with labels featuring your favorite sports or entertainment figure, complete with cutesy names like "[Curt] Schilling Chardonnay," benefiting The ALS Association, or "Cajun Cannon Cabernet," benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of New Orleans.

The wine: It's hard to vouch for the quality of the wines (the one I tried was nothing special), but since the organization donates whopping 70 to 75% of profits to so many great causes, I won't think too hard about it.

The charities: You name it, it's in here. Again, it's a little tricky to connect from the charity to the wine purchase. You need to figure out which your favorite athlete supports and work from there.

"It's fun and gimmicky," John Corcoran, owner of Charity Wines, cheerfully admits about the set-up. "Red Sox fans will buy anything." But if you ask me, if those fans are plunking down for plonk that benefits a cancer charity, everybody wins.

Do you know of other organizations that use wine to benefit charity?

About the author: Kara Newman has written about wine and spirits for such publications as Wine Enthusiast and Sommelier Journal magazines, and is the author of Spice & Ice, which explores 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.

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