Dec 08: Although the Australian Registrar of Trademarks rejected the application of Italian producers to have Prosecco registered in Australia as an Italian geographical indication (GI) in 2013 and Australian producers continue to produce Prosecco in growing volumes, Italians are likely to fight back during or before EU Australia trade talks even as Prosecco growers of Australia vow to defend, writes Subhash Arora who believes at the end one of the parties might be sacrificed as part of the negotiation
March this year, I was surprised to see Prosecco from De Bortoli
being showcased at an evening of wine tasting conducted by Darren
Blood, the Export Manager Asia Pacific and Emerging Markets of
the Oz wine company and hosted by the importer Prestige Wines
and Spirits P Ltd at The Leela, Gurgaon.
Darren confirmed and in fact, at my request later sent me a copy of a Ruling by the Registrar of Trade Marks in Australia. European Commission had raised an objection and sought to register Prosecco as GI in Australia. Their plea was rejected in November 2013 on the grounds elicited by the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia. The main factor in the decision was that the term Prosecco had been used, and continued to be used in Australia as the name of a grape variety. Apparently, EC did not appeal the decision to the Federal Court and Prosecco continues to be produced majorly in King Valley and also some other parts and the market is thriving. According to Australian sales figures for 2016, Prosecco dollar and litre-growth has been about 45 per cent for two years.
According to a Report, Italy may again seek a Geographic Indicator (GI) in the country ahead of negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and the EU. If successful, Australian wine producers will not be able to use the name Prosecco and this may have a huge impact on the country’s wine industry as the grape continues to grow in popularity worldwide, including Australia.
Prosecco growers in Australia have said they will defend their right to use the name once again. Fundamental to the issue is the registration of Prosecco as Prosecco DOC/DOCG in 2009 in Italy and EU. It must be made with Glera grape only (strictly speaking only 90%). Previously, the Italians used to popularly call the grape Prosecco. Anyone who grows the grape formerly known as Prosecco outside the DOC/DOCG cannot now use the word Prosecco on the label, if sold in EU.
In Australia, the market for Prosecco as a sparkling wine made with Charmat method has been booming since the grape variety was introduced over 20 years ago, catapulted by Italian immigrants or those with Italian lineage. The Australian market is worth roughly $60m but expected to grow to up to $200m within the next few years, making it an important component of the Australian wine industry. Otto Dal Zotto, a wine producer who grew up in Valdobbiadene reportedly grew the first commercial Prosecco grape in 1999 in the King Valley, in North East Victoria. This patriarch of Dal Zotto Wines made only 4500 bottles in the first year.
Wine Federation of Australia aggressively campaigned against the Registration of GI and was able to present their case successfully. “I was petrified in 2013 because we could have lost a lot,” says Otto Dal Zatto. But with Australian and European officials currently in talks to negotiate Australia-EU free trade deal, Italian officials might bring the GI issue back to the table.
“We are working closely with the Australian Wine Industry on this issue in our ongoing negotiations for a comprehensive and ambitious Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement,” claims the Federation. Italy has made clear during informal industry discussions ahead of negotiations that it wants a geographical indicator (GI) for Prosecco.
Italy lashes out at Aussie producers
In 2015, the president and director of the Prosecco DOC Consortium hit
out at Australia's Prosecco producers. Stefano Zanette, president of the
Prosecco DOC Consortium, had told dB: “We would like to set
the record straight: like Champagne, Prosecco is a wine of place with
protected production zones in the Veneto and Friuli. It is critical that
we protect centuries-old heritage of Prosecco. If we don’t expose
imitators, consumers won’t be able to trust that the Prosecco they
purchase is of a guaranteed quality."
Luca Giavi, director of the Prosecco DOC Consortium had said: “Some Australian producers are attempting to mislead consumers about the origin and the characteristics of their product. Why isn’t Australian Prosecco sold with other Australian wines? Why is it put on the shelf with Italian wines? Why is it that very often, in the labelling of the product, reference is made to Italy or to the ‘Italian-ness’ of the producers?”
Meanwhile, one could also empathise with Darren Blood of De Bortoli and other Australian producers. ‘It might be controversial to call a sparkling wine as Prosecco in many countries including USA unless it is from Italy but we have been making wines from Prosecco grapes grown in Australia for many years. In fact, we at De Bortoli bought our land in King Valley where a cluster of Italian immigrants has been making Prosecco for decades and we grew our own vines in 2007,’ said Darren.“I was petrified (in 2013) because we could have lost a lot,” says Otto
In the final analysis, the issue will have to be resolved with one side sacrificed. In the recent times, there has been a similar issue, even within EU- where Hungary and Italy (Friuli) had a bone of contention about the Tocai grape which had been in existence for over 150 years in Friuli. However, Hungary felt very strongly about their Tokaj and apparently made it an issue for joining the EU. At the end, Friuli producers grudgingly had to lose the battle, for the larger interest of Italy and the EU.
Meanwhile, one may still enjoy Italian and Australian Prosecco in Australia
or even India where De Bortoli exports the Aussie Prosecco as do about
20 Italian producers as Prosecco DOC or DOCG and not Oz.
For some of the earlier Articles, please visit:
Jacob’s Creek introduces Prosecco Spritz in Australia
Doc or simply Oz
Darren Blood of De Bortoli Australian Wineries
Tocai to Hungary; From Now, It's Just Friulano
Dead . Long Live Tokaji!
Ruling of 2013
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