Luca Bocca, by email, asks: How can Australian producers label their wines ‘Prosecco’ when the name is an Italian DOC and protected by Italian and European law?
Tina Gellie, Decanter’s regional editor for Australia, replies: When is Prosecco not Prosecco? When it’s Glera! In 2009, when government officials in Veneto, Italy, realised how popular their fizz was becoming, they set out to protect it. But because you can only protect a geographic indication or GI (like Champagne) not grapes (like Pinot Noir or Chardonnay), they changed the name of the Prosecco grape to its Friulian synonym of Glera and announced that the name ‘Prosecco’ was for the DOC.
Unfortunately, no other international winemaking bodies were consulted. And, back in 1997 – 10 years before these changes – cuttings of the grape had found their way to Australia in the pockets of the Dal Zotto family of Valdobbiadene, who planted the first vines in Victoria’s King Valley in 1999.
Today there are 120ha of Prosecco planted across 11 Australian regions, producing about 20 million bottles, according to Wine Australia. The country’s Prosecco exports are worth A$60 million (£32.5m) annually and are predicted to rise to A$500m over the next decade.
In 2013, the EU tried to register Prosecco as a GI in Australia but the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (now called Australian Grape & Wine) successfully argued that Prosecco had been known as a grape variety long before 2009 when the EU began recognising it as a GI. The issue flared up again in 2018 when Australia and the EU started negotiating a free trade agreement. As part of the deal, Italy wanted exclusive rights to the Prosecco name. In 2020 the Australian government gave Melbourne’s Monash University funding to look into the legal basis of using GIs in trade agreements. Researchers at Monash believe that enforcing a GI for Prosecco would contravene World Trade Organisation rules. So the battle continues. And unless there is a resolution in favour of Italy, Australian producers can continue to make and sell Prosecco.
This was first published in the August 2021 issue of Decanter magazine.