Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Issue - Protect Wine Place Name


You say Kleenex I say Tissue; You say Champagne I say Sparkling Wine.

The same way that a Napa wine comes only from Napa Valley, California, Champagne comes only from Champagne, France. Unfortunately, over 50% of all sparkling wine sold in the United States is mislabeled
“Champagne.” The vast majority of them are produced from U.S. grapes. This practice seeks to trade on the good name of another location, as well as clearly mislead consumers. The deception is a problem for all winemakers who seek to differentiate their products by location. There is an undisputed and very important link between a wine’s location and its qualities. Different regions of the world offer different wine experiences, hence many winemakers display their geographic names or appellations. Identifying a wine’s location not only differentiates it from other wines, but also informs the consumer about its origin and attributes. Mislabeling wines with incorrect geographic indications undermines both all wine producing locations and consumer confidence in the information included in wine labels.

Some producers of mislabeled sparkling wine claim they will go out of business if they can no longer use the name “Champagne.” However, the facts do not support this claim. Approximately two billion bottles of sparkling wine are sold worldwide every year. Champagne produces just 280-300 million bottles, due to the stringent requirements for growing, harvesting and winemaking in the region. Many producers in countries throughout the world – including the United States, Australia, Italy and Spain – profitably produce and sell millions of bottles of sparkling wine without using the name “Champagne.”

Location is becoming an increasingly important factor for consumers. Whether you're talking about foods like Idaho potatoes or wines from Oregon origin matters. Where the product comes from says something important about its quality. That’s why there is so much emphasis today on protecting place names with truth in labeling.

This matter goes much deeper than Champagne, it's to protect the name an origin of all wine. This movement is not new. It began in 2005. The first declaration was signed July 26, 2005 and included seven wine regions. The original 7 are: Champagne, Napa, Oregon, Washington State, Jerez, Porto and Walla Walla. Since then, March of 2007 six more regions signed on. They are Chianti Classico, Sonoma, Victoria, Paso Robles,Tokaj and Western Australia. Below is a timeline of events courtesy of the www.protectplace.com

TIMELINE: GLOBAL MOVEMENT TO PROTECT WINE PLACE NAMES

The movement to end purposeful mislabeling and misuse of place names by some wine producers is growing larger every year. These milestones underscore the continued expansion and support by governments, courts and international trade officials to prevent consumers from being misled and to protect the reputations of wine regions around the world.
December 2008 - Australia and EU Sign Wine Accord: Australia proves that wine place names can be successfully protected through an unprecedented partnership between government and industry. The misuse of wine place names are to be phased out within a year while new names for some wines are adopted under the terms of this comprehensive agreement.
May 2007 - EU Grants Geographical Indication Napa Valley becomes the first wine region outside Europe and the only U.S. wine region to be legally protected from misuse of its name in Europe. The EU extends this protection due to Napa’s unwavering commitment to the protection of place names in the U.S.adds six new U.S. and international wine regions: Sonoma County, Paso Robles, Chianti Classico, Tokaj, Victoria and Western Australia.
December 2006 - Congress Passes Limited Legislation Protecting Wine Place Names: he future misuse of 16 wine place names is banned in the U.S. as Congress passes legislation approving the U.S.-EU Wine Accord. However, a gaping loophole allows the grandfathering of labels already misusing these names.
September 2006 - California Passes New Legislation Protecting Consumers: California protects its own wine regions with a law mandating that wines labeled Sonoma County must be made with at least 75% of Sonoma County grapes. Other states follow through creating a patchwork of incongruous laws across the country.
January 2006 – U.S. Supreme Court Upholds CA Law, Protects Napa Name: The U.S. Supreme Court steps in and affirms California state law reserving the Napa Valley name exclusively for wines from the Napa Valley appellation.
July 2005 - Transatlantic Agreement Signed by Six Renowned Wine Regions: For the first time, U.S. and EU wine regions come together for a single purpose when four U.S. and three EU wine regions sign the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin.transatlantic agreement, the Declaration is the beginning of a multi-year effort to educate policymakers and consumers around the world about the importance of place names. The signatories are Napa Valley, Oregon, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, Champagne, Jerez and Porto.

May 2005 - California Court Upholds Wine Labeling Law: In the first significant legal victory in the name protection fight, the California State Supreme Court upholds a labeling law requiring Napa-labeled wines to contain only Napa grapes.

Worldwide, consumers agree that a wine label should accurately reflect the contents of the bottle. In the United States - a country that prides itself on consumer protection - this is no different. A recent poll found that 63 percent of U.S. consumers support a law prohibiting misleading labels because they believe it is the best way to protect the names of wine regions around the world, including domestic names such as Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Considering the clear mandate from consumers, one has to ponder the question: Why would a small but powerful group of producers in the United States and around the world insist on misleading consumers? Learn more about the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place Origin at www.protectplace.com.


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