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Stop using the term ‘prosecco’, EU tells Australia

Jessica Yun
Left: Prosecco is poured into the glass inside a cellar on July 12, 2019 in Conegliano, northeast Italy; Right: Workers harvest grapes for Prosecco in a vineyard on September 19, 2018 in Treviso, Italy. (Photos by Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images)
Left: Prosecco is poured into the glass inside a cellar on July 12, 2019 in Conegliano, northeast Italy; Right: Workers harvest grapes for Prosecco in a vineyard on September 19, 2018 in Treviso, Italy. (Photos by Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images)

Nearly nine years ago, we saw Australian winemakers lose the right to label locally-made bubbly as ‘champagne’ – and it looks like the name prosecco could be next on the chopping block.

As part of a $100 billion bilateral trade agreement with the European Union, the bloc is insisting that Australia stop marketing the sparkling wine as ‘prosecco’, as Italian farmers and the Italian government fight for the exclusive right to use the term.

The EU is arguing that ‘prosecco’ is a geographical indication for a type of wine produced in northern Italy, rather than being a grape variety.

Australia could take a hit

Exports of Aussie-made prosecco have soared 400 per cent, with domestic sales up 50 per cent, according to the ABC.

But the Australian wine industry is saying that sales would take a hit of up to $200 million if Aussies lost the right to use the name.

Effectively, Italy wants ‘prosecco’ to have the same protection as ‘champagne’, for which a major EU deal in 2010 has prevented any sparkling wine made outside of France’s Champagne region to be sold under that name.

But if certain regions end up having exclusive naming rights to products, it could mean Australian producers would be forced to use names like ‘Australian prosecco’ or ‘prosecco-like’.

Does ‘prosecco’ belong to the EU?

According to Monash University researchers, no.

They have come forward today saying their research found that prosecco is indeed a grape variety and should not be considered a geographical indication.

The European Commission has previously attempted to register prosecco as a geographical indication in 2013, but was unsuccessful after the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (now named Australian Grape and Wine) argued that prosecco was the name of a grape variety.

On top of that, the EU has expressly stated in a 1994 agreement with Australia that prosecco is a grape variety, Monash University researchers pointed out.

The EU’s characterisation of prosecco as a geographical indication could contravene World Trade Organisation rules, specifically Article 20 of the TRIPS Agreement and Article 2.1 of the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, said Caroline Henckels.

“Trading dubious geographical indications for access to European markets is a shortsighted approach that will negatively affect Australian industry,” she added.

It’s not just the name of the sparkling wine that’s being fought over: more than 1,500 other products could come under fire, most notably a number of popular cheeses such as parmesan, feta, haloumi, brie, camembert, pecorino, edam, and cheddar, according to the ABC.

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