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Posted: Tuesday, 28 January 2019 17:50

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Blog: Prosecco War between Italy & Australia carries on

Jan 28: Since Prosecco won the GI status from EU in 2009, defining the boundary of the Italian region from Glera grape then known commonly as Prosecco, making it mandatory for countries having trade relation with EU to desist from producing any sparkling wine and calling it Prosecco but Australia already producing this bubbly since 1999, did not fall in Line and even won the trademark case in Australia, but Italians are not backing off with a distinct chance that both sides may accept the wine nomenclature as Australian Prosecco during the current FTA negotiations. Cav. Subhash Arora feels this is the only workable solution acceptable to both the countries

When Dal Zotto family in Australia planted the first prosecco crop in King Valley in 1999 they would perhaps have not imagined that they would be making 40,000 cases a year 20 years hence, or as they entered the 20th year, they would see a phenomenal year-to-year growth of 50%. There would have been no reason to anticipate a big controversy that would rage, threatening the very existence of the bubbly or at least the nomenclature in Australia.

What’s there in a name, one might say! After all, a Chardonnay is just a chardonnay- unless of course it is Chablis, which is where it is the exclusive grape used to make what turns out to be a unique wine known as Chablis. Enjoying the Geographic Indication (GI) status, chardonnay-based wine only in Chablis may be termed Chablis. Similarly, when it is used to make a sparkling wine in Champagne, the wine may be called Blanc de Blanc champagne, which also enjoys the Geographic Indication.

The reason behind the raging controversy arose in 2009 when Italians were able to get the GI status for Prosecco from EU, explicitly ensuring that only the area defined and designated territories within Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia from a grape called Glera could be called Prosecco. Even the prosecco producers based in the Conegliano- Valdobbiadene belt in the province of Trieste had been authorised earlier to call the wine made from a grape popularly called ‘Prosecco’ as DOC Prosecco while the bubbly made outside and around this Classic region was designated as IGT (Indicazione Georgrafica Tipica) wine. This was a much wider area and had liberal norms of production, often of lower quality and always cheaper. In 2000, the producers would also not have dreamt that it would become so popular that it would overtake the sale of Champagne of 320 million bottles and hope to reach 600 million bottles, making the producers dream of a billion bottle industry.

But when suddenly the popularity increased exponentially, due to a strong promotion of Prosecco, especially in their big markets of UK, USA and Germany ( even in India, the growth has been phenomenal and estimated at 30% annually with every importer having at least one label of Prosecco in their portfolio, some having even two) , the producers decided to form two Consortio in 2009 - the classic area designated as DOCG and the much bigger area around it, then making IGT wine as DOC and received the Geographic Indication (GI). Since the GI status is given for a place and not the grape variety (Think Chablis!), suddenly, Prosecco was made with ‘Glera’ grapes and in the pre-defined area!

In a zest to keep the tradition of making Prosecco alive-only in the designated areas, the government also supported the move to stop countries/regions making Prosecco ‘illegally’. Australia proved to be the tough nut to crack and Prosecco producers went to the trade mark authority- King Valley had been identified as the perfect place by producers of Italian descent to produce bubbly from Prosecco grapes the clones of which had been procured from Italy. Italy lost the legal battle to Australian court.

All this has been explained in detail in earlier issues of delWine. The matter is a subject of debate and part of the ongoing discussions of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) currently underway where about 1500 products are under discussion by EU-Prosecco and Feta cheese (Greek) are the hot topics of debate as the maverick Australians have been producing both the GI products and refuse to buckle down.

Australian Prosecco may be the answer

Many alternative names have been suggested. After discussions, it appears that Italians might be willing to compromise and the acceptable name might be ‘Australian Prosecco’ to seal the $100 billion FTA. The Australians have produced wine bibles including the Principali Vitigni Da Vino Coltivati in Italy - a five volume tome from the Italian Department of Agriculture - exclusively referred to the grape variety as prosecco. The researchers also found that commonly used expressions such as prosecco ‘lungo’ (long) and prosecco ‘tondo’ (round) could only refer to a grape variety, not a place. By contrast, expressions such as 'long champagne' or 'round champagne' are certainly uncommon, claim the Aussies.

It is interesting that champagne producers’ association (CIVC) was also not successful in completely stopping the production of ‘Champagne’ in the US where using the ‘Grandfather Clause’ a handful producers of California were allowed to use the term their ‘champagne’ as a ‘California Champagne’. The current compromise seems to have its roots in this compromise.

Incidentally, an Agreement (FTA) under discussion between EU and India was suspended after 8 years of talks before the elections in 2014 and fresh discussions never really took place. They had called for reduction of customs duties on the wines imported from EU. With Brexit looming large, one important segment of the wine and spirits, namely Scotch whisky may not be a part of the negotiations but new beginnings are to be made for the meetings and for the moment both the EU producers and Indian importers are reconciled to high taxes, making better quality wines almost beyond the reach of the common man and cheaper variants flooding the market from across the globe, especially Australia, Chile and Spain.

For earlier Articles, please visit:

Blog: Australian Prosecco import to be banned in India ?

View Point: Italy-Australia Prosecco Debate hits Press

Bubble Trouble for Prosecco still not over in Australia

Italian Producers may Challenge Oz rights to produce Prosecco

Prosecco Producers Apply for GI Status in India

Subhash Arora

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