You may be aware of it being unlawful in the European Union to name or refer to any sparkling wine “Champagne” unless it is produced in the Champagne region of France. France’s Comité Champagne has a reputation for being particularly aggressive and litigious in protecting their trademark, with a recent multifaceted court battle with an Australian woman calling herself ‘Champagne Jayne’ concluding in 2017 – she won and has the right to continue operating under that name.
In a similar vein, Australian winemakers have just recently determined that the term for any wine made with Nero d’Avola grapes must not be used to describe any wines that are not from the Italian region of Avola in the south east of Sicily. This declaration has been made by the Geographical Indications Committee, which has power to grant protection to such terms under the Wine Australia Act 2013 (Cth) (the Act), and comes as a result of a push from Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture to prevent the sale of Australian Nero d’Avola wines in the UK.
As a result of this determination Australian winemakers that produce Nero d’Avola wine now face some uncertainty as to whether they are allowed to trademark their wines if it includes some variation of the term Nero d’Avola, despite this accurately describing the product.
More seriously, protection under Part VIB of the Act also makes it illegal to falsely describe or present wine as the product of a certain protected geographical indication – in this case, Avola – with penalties of imprisonment of up to 2 years.
Winemakers should be acutely aware of this new restriction and make sure their grapes don’t attract the wrath of Wine Australia or other overseas regulatory bodies.