Politics meets terroir. The story of Prosecco – Are GI’s just a protectionist racket?

The recent Free Trade Agreement negotiations between Australia and the European Union have again put the issue of Geographical Indications (GIs) in the spotlight. Australia has long demonstrated its understanding of GIs and maintains a clear and rigorous GI protection system for wine. For many years, Australia’s wine sector was a strong advocate for GIs and a strong system to protect the rights of users. However, in recent times, trust has been eroded by the move by the European Union to legislate away the use of the grape variety ‘Prosecco’ and create an artificial region called ‘Prosecco’. This effectively downgraded the value of the GI Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco by removing the legitimate terroir link between the region and the product. In Australia and other countries, this was perceived as a cynical attempt to remove the rights of other producers to use the traditional variety Prosecco and has been strongly resisted. In this paper, we use the case study of ‘Prosecco’ to explore the importance of GIs and how the national political agendas can impact on the validity of the concept. Recent developments in international law and practical experience in recent Free Trade Agreement negotiations allow the authors to develop a hypothesis that GIs are being used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations. Their very credibility is being eroded as protectionist ideology is driving short-sighted political decision making to devalue the whole concept of GIs by de-linking terroir from the GI. This limits the acceptability of the GI concept and potentially will lead to a consumer backlash as the integrity of the system is questioned. This study also investigates the international legal developments and the implications for these on GI protection.

Authors: Anthony Battaglene1*, Damien Griffante2, Lee McLean1

1Australian Grape and Wine Incorporated, Canberra, ACT, Australia
2Australian Grape and Wine Incorporated, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Email: tony@agw.org.au

Keywords: Geographic Indications, grape varieties, regionality, Prosecco, wine trade

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