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Saturday 25 March 2023

Rathbone speaks out as fight over the name Prosecco continues

The fight over the name Prosecco - and whether it is a region or gape variety - continues to make wine industry waves.

Australian Grape & Wine is urging anyone with an interest in the name Prosecco, or the ongoing rights to use other grape variety terms, to make sure their voice is heard as the Australian Government opens a public objections process in a range of proposed European Union (EU) wine geographical indications (GIs).

“It’s absolutely critical that Australian grape growers and winemakers submit their views to Government through this public objections process” said Lee McLean, chief executive of Australian Grape & Wine.

“Prosecco is a grape variety just like shiraz or chardonnay” said McLean. “We need to let political decision makers in Australia and the EU know that maintaining our ability to use grape variety names is an essential element of rules-based trade and investment in our sector.”

Through the negotiation for the Australia-European Community Agreement on Trade in Wine (Wine Agreement), the EU is seeking protection for 50 new wine GIs - including Prosecco and Picpoul de Pinet - as well as updates to existing GIs.

The public objections process is a way for interested stakeholders to provide submissions of objection to the wine GIs for which the EU is seeking protection for in Australia.

It is the second time the grape variety name Prosecco has been subjected to a public objections process in Australia under the agreement.

The last attempt by the EU to stop Australian producers from using the name Prosecco was quashed by the Registrar of Trademarks in legal proceedings in 2012 and 2013 on the grounds that Prosecco is a grape variety name.

Italian producers say the name of the grape is glera and that Prosecco is a defined region.

“We understand some will be frustrated by the requirement to re-prosecute the arguments they made in 2012-13, particularly given the common-sense outcome delivered by the Registrar of Trademarks at the time” said McLean.

“It is critical, however, that every grower and every winemaker with an interest in Prosecco takes the time to lodge a submission into this process.”

Darren Rathbone, CEO and winemaker at the Rathbone Wine Group, whose labels include Yering Station, Mount Langi Ghiran and Xanadu, is vocal on the issue. 

"It is important to protect the names of the grape varieties that we use in Australia," Rathbone says.

"Prosecco is the name of the grape that the Australian winemakers use to make the wine we call Prosecco. Unfortunately the EU are claiming that Prosecco is a region rather than a grape variety.

"Protection of regional names, such as Margaret River, Yarra Valley or Burgundy (there are obviously thousands of them across the world) need to be defined and protected.

"Grape variety names, such as chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon or prosecco also need to be defined and protected."

Australian Prosecco has grown to over $200 million dollars in value, with regions like Victoria’s King Valley - home to Prosecco producer DalZotto (above) - investing millions in vineyards, production facilities and associated tourism infrastructure. 

The variety is now grown in 20 regions across Australia.

Submissions must be lodged before noon on April 21 via the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s Have Your Say webpage.

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