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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Friday, 03 September 2010 11:45

No More Port and Champagne from Australia

While Goan Port merrily carries on selling increasing number of cases of fortified unregulated wine in India, countries like South Africa and Australia have banned the use of words like Port, Sherry and Champagne, with Australia being the latest country to sign a new agreement with EU to safeguard various graphical indications.

A new agreement governing the wine trade between Australia and the European Union came into force on September 1, 2010 replacing the earlier agreement signed in 1994.

According to a media statement by the European Commission earlier in the week, the new agreement ‘safeguards EU's wine labeling regime, gives full protection to EU geographical indications including for wines intended for export to third countries and includes a clear Australian commitment to protect EU traditional expressions.’

The agreement also provides for phasing out of the use of a number of important EU names such as Port, Champagne and Sherry on Australian wine labels by September 1, 2011-a year of the agreement coming into force.  These wines are allowed to be produced only in designated areas in Portugal, France and Spain under strictly followed regulations.

The list defines 11 such geographic indications including Mosel and Burgundy. Several other traditional processes, styles and expressions like "Amontillado" (a Sherry style), Claret (a Bordeaux style) and Auslese (used in German wine laws) will also be banned at the same time. However, Australian Tokai has been given 10 years for the phase-out. EU has been fighting for the right of Hungary to term wines from the region called Tokai, known for excellent sweet wines..

The new agreement however, allows Australian wine producers to continue to use a number of quality wine terms, such as "vintage", "cream" and "tawny" to describe Australian wines exported to Europe and sold domestically but with some conditions..

The agreement was signed in Brussels on December 1 2008. The Australian authorities had informed the European Union on July 27 2010 that they had completed their ratification procedures. Thereafter, the two sides agreed to make the agreement effective from September 1.

Australian wineries will now get even better access to the European market. The trade balance is already in their favour heavily. EU wine exports to Australia were worth € 68 million last year whereas Australia exported worth € 643 million of wine to EU which is their biggest export market.

Australian producers will also be protected against the misuse of 112 geographic indications (GIs) like Barossa or Coonawarra. They have also secured pan-EU recognition of 16 more Australian winemaking techniques such as using oak chips or resin to add scent and flavour. The 1994 Agreement allowed for 28 such techniques/processes. The agreement also provides for simpler arrangements for approval of any techniques developed in the future.

The agreement is very important for the European Union which has long been intent on protecting the regional skills and expertise of its 27 member nations, especially for food, wine and other artisanal products. It took over 6 years of re-negotiations to reach the accord with Australia.

The ban in the agreement on the use of important EU names such as Port and Sherry is similar to a similar agreement agreed a decade ago between the EU and South Africa who have already adapted themselves to terms relating to Cape- like Cape Tawny, Cape Ruby and Cape Vintage. They had already moved away from Champagne for more than 50 years, and call their bubblies as Cape Classique.

Although most producers stopped naming their Ports as such, the EU did not allow them the use of Tawny, Ruby and Vintage either. It was only when the South Africans went to court against that decision and won it in their favour, that the EU allowed them to continue using the classification. A few of the small producers continue to use the name Port but they are too insignificant for EU to take action.

Interestingly, the South Africans appear to be quite upset with EU, since they were promised some payments in lieu of disbanding using the name of Port and Sherry for brand building but the EU allegedly did not meet its commitment. Since a much bigger stake is involved, they have decided to keep the issue buried.

Incidentally, Goan ‘Port’ has nothing in common with Port which is made in the town of Porto in Portugal and uses only designated local grapes like Turiga Nacional. Hopefully, the impact is too insignificant for EU to worry about any action. The so called Goan Port and the equivalent fortified wines made in Maharashtra cost between €1-2 and have over 300,000 cases of consumption, making it over 20% of the reported figures of wine consumption.


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