Australian winemakers prepare to defend right to produce ‘Prosecco’

Australian winemakers are preparing to defend their right to produce ‘Prosecco’ once again, amid rumours the Italian government will try to claim exclusive use of the label.

In 2009, the Italian region of production became registered in the EU as ‘Prosecco DOC’, and the grape variety used to make the fizz was re-named Glera.

Prosecco growers in Australia have said they will defend their right to use the name once again, after it emerged that Italy may seek a Geographic Indicator (GI) in the country ahead of negotiations for a free trade deal between Australia and the European Union.

The application will be the second attempt in five years aiming to protect the status of Italian sparkling wine in Australia.

A GI would prevent Australian winemakers from using the name Prosecco, which could have a huge impact on the country’s wine industry as the grape continues to grow in popularity worldwide.

Vital to the distinctive nature of the sparkling wine is the grape variety, which is called Prosecco in Australia but has been referred to as “Glera” within the EU for nearly a decade.

In 2009, the Italian region of production became registered in the EU as ‘Prosecco DOC’, and the grape variety used to make the fizz was re-named Glera – which, it is believed, was deliberately chosen to discourage producers outside the region from using the grape to make sparkling wine.

Anyone who grows the grape formerly known as Prosecco outside the DOC cannot use the word Prosecco on the label – that is, if they want to sell the product in the EU.

In Australia, however, the Prosecco market is booming since the grape variety was introduced over 20 years ago. The Australian market is worth roughly $60m (£35m), and is expected to grow to up to $200m (£117m) in the coming years.

The Registrar of Trademarks rejected the application to have Prosecco registered in Australia as an Italian geographical indication back in 2013 – a move which the Wine Federation of Australia aggressively campaigned against.

But with Australian and European officials currently in talks to negotiate a Australia-EU free trade deal, winegrowers claim that Italian officials could put a GI back on the table.

It appears the local Victorian government is supporting its growers’ right to sell Prosecco. Last week, the institution hosted an event supporting wineries on “Prosecco Road.”

A spokesperson from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told the drinks business that it is “aware of the importance of keeping descriptors, such as grape varieties and generic terms, available for use by Australian traders.”

“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.”

Tony Battaglene, chief executive of the WFA, told Xinhuanet. that the Australian wine industry “would object to any such exclusive protection.”

Battaglene told reporters that that Prosecco is “widely used” within the country, and continues to be “recognised as a grape variety, not a geographical indication (GI),” Battaglene said.

At least 50% of the country’s Prosecco crops can be found in Southern Australia’s King Valley – more commonly referred to as Prosecco Road.

“Australian legislation permits Prosecco production in the country as Australian regulations consider Prosecco a grape and not a geographical indication,” Luca Giavi, director of the Prosecco DOC Consortium, told the drinks business in 2015.

 

the drinks business has contacted The WFA and the Italian Ministry for Development for comment.

7 Responses to “Australian winemakers prepare to defend right to produce ‘Prosecco’”

  1. Glugger says:

    Maybe the Italians could produce some Hunter Valley Glera, or Rutherglen Moscato in retaliation?

  2. F. Saverio says:

    It’s not possible to produce Prosecco in the Italian regions that are out of the appellation, then I really can’t get how and why Australian should be able to do that – just for a marketing aim?!

  3. the wine nut says:

    It seems to me the Italians have changed the rules half way through the game — just for a marketing aim! The Australians brought prosecco as a grape variety into the country decades ago and have spent lots of time, money and effort developing it and promoting it as a grape variety. It seems a bit unfair this could all be undone just because the Italians now want to monopolise the name of this grape variety. Imagine if the town of Chardonnay decided that, actually, Chardonnay is a place name and not a grape variety and that the variety we all know as Chardonnay is actually called Morag (or some other unattractive sounding name … sorry to anyone called Morag, I’m sure you’re lovely!)

  4. Joel says:

    Maybe they can label it as “The Grape Formerly Known as Prosecco”.

  5. Lorrie says:

    This is much of the same fight that Champagne did over the erm ” champagne” used on other labels that produced the sparkling wine in the same champenois method. They sued every country to stop using the name after they trade marked it. Under the agreement no new wineries could use the term on their labels, except those that had been producing it already.
    Italy defines itself through superior prosecco and moscato, along with other wines. They are trying to protect themselves, the quality of the name they built and others not to capitalize on their long tradition….. And I do not blame them!
    The best thing for all is to follow the agreement made from the Champagne case and no new wineries can use that term outside of Italy and those already must label it Australian Prosecco, etc….

  6. Alan Tardi says:

    It is absurd for Australian attempting to attempt to defend their ‘right’ to use the name Prosecco because they simply and clearly do not have one.
    Grapes have been cultivated in the area of Conegliano Valdobbiadene (located just north of Venice in the province of Treviso in the Veneto region) for millennia. Among the many grape varieties that migrated to the Italian Peninsula from the cradle of vitis vinifera in the Middle East, a handful of them found their ideal habitat in this small hilly enclave, where the Dolomite Mountains form a protective barrier behind the hills to the north and the Piave river valley stretches south to Venice and the Adriatic Sea. Over time one grape stood out as the predominant variety in this particular area and it became known locally as Prosecco, probably because the vine passed through a village called Prosek just outside the city of Trieste prior to its arrival here.
    Some have linked the wine made from this grape in the hills of Conegliano Valdobbiadene to the one praised by the ancient Romans as Pucinum (which, whatever it was, was apparently being made here long before the Romans arrived), and one of the earliest written references to a wine called Prosecho in the hills of Treviso dates back to 1743. [In comparison, the first British colony was established in Australia in 1788 and the country was officially created in 1901. While grapevines were introduced with the first settlement, the fledgling wine industry was almost completely destroyed by phylloxera in the late 1800s and did not really take off until the 1970s.]
    From the earliest times, the wine called “Prosecco” was synonymous with the area in which it was produced and the principal grape — or grapes — from which it was made. (Up until recent advances in the science of ampelography and genetic mapping, the naming of grape varieties was quite empirical and the same name was often given to a number of similar-seeming vines that, it later turns out, have a significantly different genetic makeup.)
    While it can be very interesting to try to trace the origins and journeys of a grape variety, the reality is that vitis vinifera changes significantly in response to its environment, both in terms of the characteristics it displays and even its genetic composition, as well as to the handling of the people that cultivate it over long periods of time and transform it into wine. Thus it is totally accurate to say that the wine we know as Prosecco, made principally from what became locally known as the Prosecco grape, was born in this hilly enclave that, once the wine began to catch on sometime around the late 19th and early 20th centuries, also began to became collectively known as the Prosecco area.
    When in 1969 the first appellation for Prosecco was created for the clearly delineated area in which it was born, members of the original consortium of producers officially registered what had been established over hundreds of years, that the name Prosecco indicated a specific growing area, the wine that was made there, and the principal grape it was made from.
    While this might seem like a critical oversight today — it is not possible, or at least not legally enforceable, to name a wine growing area after a grape variety — it was not so apparent fifty years ago to local producers who, having miraculously bounced back from the near total devastation of WW II, were struggling to promote their then little-known wine and keep their extremely challenging viticultural enterprise alive, and could never possibly have imagined that Prosecco would skyrocket to international fame much less become a coveted (and frequently counterfeited) commodity throughout the world.
    This oversight was corrected in 2009 when the name of the grape known as Prosecco was officially changed to Glera, one of the old regional synonyms. At the same time, the original growing area of Conegliano Valdobbiadene was upgraded to DOCG status (the highest level of Italian wine making) and an entirely new and much more extensive appellation called Prosecco DOC was established in large part to supply the already huge and still growing international demand.
    The fact is that the wine the world now knows as Prosecco has always been indelibly linked to and defined by its place of origin, and for anyone to produce a wine bearing that name anywhere else is dishonest and deceitful, not to mention very misleading to consumers. The effort of some winemakers to usurp the name is nothing more than an attempt to capitalize on generations of someone else’s hard work and the widespread success it has, quite surprisingly, come to enjoy. For people in Conegliano Valdobbiadene, however, this is not really so much about money as it is about retaining the integrity of their longstanding and hard-earned viti-cultural heritage.
    Australian wine makers, like any other winemakers throughout the world, are perfectly free to make a sparkling wine in the style of Prosecco, using the “Italian Method” of production that was developed over a century ago at the Conegliano enology school, and perhaps even grape varieties native to the Prosecco area grown on Australian soil. But they cannot call it Prosecco, just as the new breed of British sparkling winegrowers cannot — and don’t want or need to — call their bubbly “Champagne”.

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