Citing market confusion, Australia rejects EU bid to prohibit Prosecco as grape name

prosecco grapes

Above: Glera — previously known as Prosecco — grapes from the 2012 harvest in the Prosecco DOCG (Asolo, Valdobbiadene, Conegliano). In 2009, the creation of the Prosecco DOCG changed the name of the Prosecco grape to Glera.

According to a blog post by the Australian law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth, the Australian trademarks registrar has rejected a European Union bid to make Prosecco an Australian geographical indication (i.e., appellation) and to prohibit the use of Prosecco as a grape name.

The EU had filed the appeal in a bid to force Australian winemakers to use “Glera” as the name of the grape used in wines labeled as “Prosecco.”

The EU legal move was intended to align Australian labeling and marketing regulation with the Prosecco DOCG, which officially renamed the Prosecco grape “Glera” in 2009.

Since the 2009 creation of the DOCG, Veneto and Friuli producers of Prosecco have called their grapes Glera. The new labeling requirements were introduced by the Prosecco Consortium, which believed that the new classification would eliminate market confusion.

Michael Arblaster, the Australian Deputy Registrar of Trademarks, also “refused to exercise his (broad) discretion to direct the Geographical Indications Committee (GIC) to consider the Prosecco GI application.”

He did so based on the following issues, according to the report published by Corrs Chambers Westgarth:

  • the confusion worldwide as to whether Prosecco is a GI, a grape variety or a style of wine;
  • that Prosecco has been available as a variety name for use by Australian producers since 1994 (and is the only official name for that grape variety);
  • and that the effect of registering the Prosecco GI would be to prevent producers from continuing to use Prosecco as the name of a grape variety (which is exactly the mischief that the [Wine Australia Corporation] Act is designed to avoid).
  • The court’s decision is sure to be seen as a blow to the Prosecco DOCG Consortium’s efforts to reshape the “Prosecco” brand beyond Italy’s borders.

    “Italians are often surprised by the fact that we make Prosecco here,” writes the author of a blog published by Austrlian wine importer Trembath and Taylor, “and most of it is pretty good. I’ve had much worse imported Prosecco – Aldi anyone? – than I have had local so it’s hard to argue that Australian Prosecco is damaging the Prosecco ‘brand.’ Rather the opposite in fact. You couldn’t give Prosecco away ten years ago and wineries such as Dal Zotto have done a great job of promoting the category.”

    “In Australia, we are seeing a ‘downgrade’ of Prosecco as restaurants and retailers look to increase margin by purchasing cheaper brands of imported Prosecco. Unfortunately, it makes no difference to them, or the drinker, if its DOC or DOCG.”

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