EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement Causes Headache for Australian 'Prosecco' Producers

As part of the new free trade agreement between the European Union and New Zealand the southern hemisphere nation now recognises Prosecco as a protected geographical indication and will phase out the use of the term for NZ or imported wines from anywhere outside the Italian region. Veronika Crecelius reports.

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627.5 mill. bottles of Prosecco in 2021 (Photo: credit Consorzio DOC Prosecco)
627.5 mill. bottles of Prosecco in 2021 (Photo: credit Consorzio DOC Prosecco)

The Consorzio di Tutela Prosecco DOC is celebrating its second success in the fight for trademark protection in a year.

Trademarks in China 

At the end of 2021 the Prosecco DOC consortium won the fight for trademark protection in China:

In 2014, the consortium had registered Prosecco  as a collective mark in that market, against the objections of Australian Grape and Wine on behalf of the producers who make and sell sparkling wine under that name from 120 ha across 11 regions. The decision favouring Italy by the Chinese official body CNIPA  in December 2021, probably reflects the friction between Canberra and Beijing.

Trade between Australia and New Zealand

The new agreement with New Zealand is likely to hit Australian Prosecco producers hard. As Wine Australia reports, New Zealand is the most important country for Australian exports with almost 50% of the market by value. It is also the main export market for Australian Prosecco. New Zealand‘s total import market was valued at USD$236 million in 2021 according to Global Trade Atlas.

"This protection is particularly significant, since a country so far away from us recognises that we are a denomination of origin, preventing the marketing of 'Australian Prosecco five years after the agreement comes into force'“, explains Alessandra Zuccato, head of the Consortium's protection activities.

From Grape Variety to Geographical Indication

Confusingly, Prosecco is both a grape variety and a region. Until 2009, it was generally seen as the former, like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio or Merlot, allowing growers in other countries to plant it and to use the name on their labels. Australia's history with the grape dates back to 1999 when the Dal Zotto family brought cuttings of the grape from Valdobbiadene in Veneto to Australia’s King Valley.

With the rapid growth of its Prosecco globally in the early 2000s, the regional wine industry searched for ways to protect their examples from competition and fraud. Geographical regions – such as Champagne or Barolo - can be protected, but grape varieties cannot, so the producing areas in Veneto and Friuli decided to change the name of the Prosecco grape to the alternative – Glera – in 2009, and declared that the name Prosecco was for the DOC. The rationale for this lay in the existence of a small town called Prosecco close to Trieste in Friuli. 

(It is interesting to consider what might have happened in France if the Burgundians had taken a similar approach, using the village of Chardonnay in the Maconnais.)

Prosecco is now a DOC, or Denominazione di Origine Controllata with a large production zone (including the village of Prosecco), that spans nine provinces. Within that area, Italy also recognizes a more specific 'superior' Prosecco terroir with the stricter Prosecco Superiore DOCG in the hilly production areas of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene and Colli Asolani.

The DOC rules allow Prosecco to contain up to 15% of other varieties such as Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay in addition to Glera.

Difficulties in Singapore

While the Italians have won their battle in New Zealand and China, they are still facing opposition from the Australian producers' association in other markets including Singapore.

Protection nearly all over the world

Countries in which Prosecco D.O.C. has been granted protection under a bilateral or plurilateral agreement:

  • Algeria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, South Korea, Gabon, Georgia, Haiti, Israel, Mexico, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Peru, Portugal, Moldova, Serbia, Japan, United States, Togo, Tunisia, Armenia, Switzerland, Vietnam, New Zealand.

Countries where Prosecco is a recognised GI through national registration managed by the Consortium:

  • Belarus, India, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Canada, Malaysia, Russian Federation.

Countries where Prosecco is a registered trademark (figurative and/or denominative):

  • Austria, Belgium, United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Finland, Monaco, France, Ireland, Greece, United Kingdom, Croatia, Hungary, China, European Community.

Source: Consorzio di Tutela DOC Prosecco



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