Why The Kiwis Can Still Make ‘Prosecco’
Tuesday 9 July
In 2013, New Zealand wine producers are still permitted to use terms like Chablis and Port to describe their wine styles. One Marlborough producer even makes “prosecco” from riesling, muller thurgau and pinot gris and it’s all perfectly legal.
The murky issue reared its head when the wine association Napa Valley Vintners recently crossed the Pacific to register the Napa Valley name as a trademark with the Intellectual Property Office in New Zealand to prevent any “potential for misuse of the Napa Valley name.” I can’t think of anyone who uses the term Napa - or would want to use it - to describe a Kiwi wine but I hope they enjoyed their visit.
However, Napa can only register as a trademark in New Zealand and not a Geographical Indication because New Zealand doesn’t have a Geographical Indication registration system – yet.
While the rest of the world has been given the cease and desist warning from Europe over its prized wine regions, New Zealand has been enjoying a rather long holiday from these legal constraints. A Geographical Indications Wine and Spirits Act was passed in 2006 but seven years later, it still hasn’t been brought into effect. The Prime Minister, John Key, has been too busy commentating on televised cricket matches and attending other equally important events!
But the national wine association, New Zealand Winegrowers, has petitioned the government to remove the digit and finally implement this GI registration system.
The industry body hopes that it will come into force in 2014, as it would provide a higher level of protection for the country’s wines overseas and force regions to define their regional identity formally. Moving into China and other less well-established markets means Kiwis are rightfully keen to register regions including Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay as GIs
John Barker, general manager of advocacy and trade for the country’s wine association, New Zealand Winegrowers, says: “It’s about being able to tell your story. The opportunity with the GI is to really work with the regions and coordinate those stories. You have to generate quite a lot of information to apply for a GI: climate, geography, history, social structure, there’s an opportunity for us to pull all that together. When you have everybody with their regional stories built on the same basis it gives us a lot more depth to what we are doing.”
However, the implications are enough to cause a migraine: when the act comes into force every GI across the wine world can be registered if they wish. Any region from Anjou to Zakynthos could turn up in New Zealand with their registration form. The paperwork could be enormous.
A consultation paper is expected from the New Zealand government in the next few months and perhaps that will lead to greater legal protection for Kiwi wines overseas and imported wines over here. Or, perhaps we’ll be waiting another seven years.
Prosecco, but not as we know it
Monday 29 August
To be or not to be Prosecco? That is my question
In July 2009, the EU ruled that producers making Prosecco outside of the DOC and new DOCG area in the Veneto region would be forced to use the new grape name Glera on their labels instead of Prosecco.
So, on my return to New Zealand from Blighty, I was a little puzzled to be presented with a bottle of Toi Toi ‘New Zealand Prosecco’. What the….?
It’s not made from the grape formally known as Prosecco (‘Glera’) but a blend of Riesling, Muller-Thurgau and Pinot Gris. The sparkle is not created by the tank method, used in the Prosecco region but carbonated. So, I am curious as to why the front label clearly states Prosecco on the front. The accompanying press release claims it is “produced to broadly reflect the origins and style of the Italian wine”. Well, it’s 11.5% alcohol, which is about right, medium-dry with apple and pear characters but I’m not sure the Venetians will be overly impressed by the quality of the contents.
John Barker, general counsel for New Zealand Winegrowers shed some light on the matter. If this wine is only sold in New Zealand, there should be no problem, as there is no agreement with the EU on this law.
Barker says, “It’s a bit of a funny position the Italians have taken. There’s no geographical area called Prosecco if you look on a map – the GI is an artefact of EU law. There’s no grape variety called Prosecco either because the grape is Glera.
“It’s absolute nonsense,” he adds.
So, the only domestic stumbling block comes from if the label is considered to be misleading – and that’s a personal matter. Personally, I think it’s misleading but you can make your own mind up.
Sparkling solution to Sauvignon surplus
Thursday 21 January
Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc was the fizz of choice for many Kiwis this Christmas and following Montana’s UK launch at the recent New Zealand annual wine trade tasting, it is probably coming to a shelf near you.
Of course, it’s smart marketing. Still Sauvignon sales are booming with exports up 37% last year and no sign of that stopping: the latest figures from retailer Majestic show Oyster Bay was its biggest seller at Christmas. Sparkling is a natural brand extension and you can’t blame them for it. It doesn’t taste that bad - if you like those green pea and capsicum flavours combined with bubbles. I won’t be buying it but the supermarkets have been piling it high and putting it on offer at NZD $8.99 (£4-ish). Consumers have lapped it up.
It’s also a genius way to empty the tanks and mop up some of that oversupply that is still hanging round like a bad smell. Many think the supply-demand situation will be back in balance within 12-18 months and if you can sell off excess stock by putting a few bubbles in it, why wouldn’t you?
I’ll be interested to see how it gets on in the UK. Montana is the biggest selling brand by volume in the UK (Nielsen, MAT 03/10/09) so it has plenty of traction with consumers but is up against a hell of a lot more competition in the sparkling market: Cava, Aussie sparklers, Prosecco, and great Champagne deals. Will it hit the right price point and suit the UK consumers’ palate or is this a step too far?
Another extension of Sauvignon comes from Southbank Estate – with its rosé Sauvignon Blanc. I rolled my eyes when I saw an advert for it recently but that’s probably because I’m a cynical journalist. The Italians are doing the same with Pinot Grigio and having plenty of success with it so why can’t the Kiwis do it with their most successful grape variety?
Prosecco grape to be renamed Glera outside heartland
Friday 10 July
Any producers making Prosecco outside of the DOC and new DOCG region in Veneto will be forced to use the new grape name Glera on their labels instead of Prosecco. Apparently, Glera is an ancestor of the Prosecco grape but I think it sounds as naff as ‘Topaque’ - the new name for Aussie Tokay.
In a press release, Franco Adami, president of the Consorzio per la Tutela del Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene explained: “In 1969, when we obtained the DOC, the grape variety was grown exclusively in the 15 communes lying between the small towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. However in the last few decades, due to the quality of the wine and the winemaking skill of the producers its cultivation has gradually spread. Given this situation, we had to take action to protect the name Prosecco and to preserve the value created by this area and implement clear regulations that could guarantee a minimum level of quality.”
From the 2009 vintage the name of the new DOCG will be Conegliano-Valdobbiadene and the sparkling wines will be labeled DOCG Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.
Adami added: “The term Superiore helps the consumer to understand right away that this is an example of the original and best quality Prosecco from the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG.”
The DOCG will not change the production rules and the production per hectare will remain the same. Director of the Consorzio, Giancarlo Vettorello said: “I would like to reassure both producers and UK importers that as production rules in our region will not be affected by the new DOCG status, the total number of bottles produced will not be reduced and consequently prices will not increase.”
Right that’s enough from me, two posts in a day makes me need a cuppa. Ah well, the weekend is upon us.