Losing the Prosecco name would be ‘catastrophic’

27 February, 2019 by Andy Young

The Australian Government is currently conducting free trade negotiations with the European Union (EU) and arguments are being had over whether Prosecco is a geographical indicator (GI), like Champagne, or a grape variety.

The EU maintains Prosecco is a GI and as such has banned the importation of any wine labelled as Prosecco into the EU and also into countries with which the EU has free trade agreements. In addition the EU’s position is that Australian wine producers stop using the name Prosecco on any of their wines as a condition of a trade agreement. They are that the grape variety is Glera, although this term was only introduced by the European Commission in 2010.

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Australian wine producers and the Australian Government are arguing that the name Prosecco refers to a grape variety rather than a GI and so they should be allowed to keep using the name.

The Dal Zotto family brought grape vines called Prosecco into Australia in 1997 and since the early 2000s Prosecco has been produced in commercial quantities in Australia.

Michael Dal Zotto told TheShout, that it is crucial that the Australian Government holds firm in these negotiations.

“It’s really, really important that we are able to keep using the Prosecco name. It’s critical,” Dal Zotto said.

“For one we don’t want to set an unhealthy precedent around succumbing to pressure and saying, ‘OK it’s not Prosecco any more it’s Glera. It’s been known as Prosecco since the beginning of time, so why all of a sudden should that change and why should we allow it to be changed?

“Secondly it would be detrimental to a number of Australian businesses, when you look at the growth that the variety has seen of late.

“So it’s really important to us and it’s really important that the Government holds firm. We had a good result out of New Zealand when they said, no it’s a grape variety so that’s worked in our favour and helped us out. Then there are the people behind us who are looking at the legality of trying to stop us from using the name.”

Ross Brown of the Brown Family Wine Group is also producing Prosecco out of the King Valley and he agrees that there is no basis to the Italian argument of using the term Glera.

“Prosecco is a grape variety and that is really where our argument starts and finishes. The whole Italian argument of changing the name to Glera is a fraud,” Brown told TheShout.

“It’s critical that we keep the Prosecco name, it’s just like telling someone they can’t use Cabernet or Shiraz. It’s the handle that people refer to the grape variety as, it’s also the wine name and if Australia even contemplated giving that away on such a fragile basis you’d have to say there is no European name that’s got any integrity in terms of commercial usage.

“It runs beyond wine then, it goes through cheese, salamis and a huge multitude of produce and the precedent of this would be catastrophic for Australia’s naming.

“This has no relevance to Champagne; Champagne is a region it’s been acknowledged as a region and the whole industry understands the Champagne argument. But the Prosecco argument is quite different, it’s an arbitrary claim dug out of nowhere.”

One of the options reportedly being discussed was using the term ‘Australian Prosecco’, but both Brown and Dal Zotto reject that idea.

“Prosecco is the grape variety whether it’s grown in Australia or Italy, so using ‘Australian Prosecco’ is a nonsense argument really,” Brown said.

Dal Zotto added: “We label all of our bottles with Wine of Australia on there, that’s mandatory and we also put King Valley and we are proud of coming from King Valley, Australia. So I don’t think it achieves anything to use the name Australian Prosecco because it’s already there.

“There’s not anything that is hidden and we do it already, but if we do it with Prosecco, does that mean we’ll have to start using Australian Chardonnay as well?”

The Monash University has produced a document titled, ‘The Dubious Legality of the EU’s Claims to Exclusive Use of the Term “Prosecco”’ which delves into the history of Prosecco and shows that until recently the wine and grape variety has always been Prosecco. It highlights the recent decision by Italian producers to change the name and tell the rest of the world they should use Glera.

The document questions the legality of the move and the EU negotiating position under international law, giving hope to Australian producers that they will come out on top in these negotiations.

Dal Zotto told TheShout: “So far the trade ministers and negotiators have all held firm and we really hope that they continue to do so.”

With Prosecco enjoying incredible growth in Australia right now, it’s crucial that this term is kept and that the growth is maintained in this increasingly important category.