Danish Supermarkets are removing South African Wines from their shelves following the outburst created by the airing of the film, “Bitter Grapes—Slavery in the Vineyards,” on national television. The film produced by Danish filmmaker Tom Heinemann brought to light the inferior working conditions of farm workers in South Africa’s wine province. These workers are treated shoddier than slaves, with dilapidated living conditions, long working hours in exacting weather and are exposed to toxic pesticides day long. The workers were paid in alcohol rather than money, which was equivalent to the dop system existed in the apartheid-era.
Supermarket chain Dagrofa has pulled products from the Robertson Winery, featured in the film as among the worst abusers. Retailers Spar, Meny and KIWI have stopped imports of Robertsons, according to VinaVisen, a Danish wine publication. “If I look at the websites of the vineyards that I visited, that’s a completely different picture that I see,” Heinemann told Danish radio station 702.
VinPro, a service organisation for 3500 South African wine producer and cellar members, said in a statement that the documentary was biased and one sided. The organization criticized its makers for ignoring the reforms taken by South Africa’s wine industry. In response to the film, Robertson Winery published a letter on Oct. 7, before the film aired, from a Swedish importer, which praised Robertson’s relationship with workers and assured customers that working conditions were “not tantamount to slavery.” The same winery has been affected by strikes since late August; workers are demanding increased wages.
Scandinavia drinks an average 50 million liters a year of South Africa’s reds, whites and blends. Sweden was South Africa’s second largest export market in 2014, consuming 20 million liters, beaten only by the United Kingdom, according to the South African Wine Industry Information & Systems. The film will also be shown in Norway. Heinemann hopes to air the English version of his film on British television, he told the South African newspaper the Sunday Times.