US/EC wine trade agreement up in the air

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  • Thursday 26 March 2009

US wine exports no longer have permission to be labelled with traditional terms such as ‘Chateau,’ ‘vintage’ and ‘clos,’ after a clause in the wine trade agreement between the United States and the European Community lapsed earlier this month

A three-year extension was given to the US by the EC in order to give them time to cooperate with a previous ruling which banned US producers from using traditional wine terms considered specific to European wines.

‘Since the late 1990’s the European Community (EC) has been adding descriptive terms to its regulations in an attempt to grant additional monopolistic market value for its wine producers,’ said Joe Rollo, director of international trade policy at the Wine Institute.

‘The United States position during the negotiations is that the EC is on shaky legal ground by trying to regulate adjectives that describe wine,’ he said. ‘The US trade representatives have essentially said that they don’t accept the regulating of what are essentially descriptive terms.’

The lapse of the 2006 accord means that the EC now expects American winemakers to no longer use the words it considers off limits by virtue of its regulations.

Still, according to Rollo, in legal terms all the EC is asking for is that the US provide its own definition of terms such as classic, clos and sur lie.

‘Fortified wine producers have not been able to export their wines using the protected EC geographic names such as sherry, port or Madeira for some time now,’ said Rollo.

But the question has not yet been settled and US trade representatives have sent a formal request to the EC asking for clarification on trademarked names like Clos Du Val or Chateau St. Jean.

The EC has yet to answer the official request.

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