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New Greater Australia appellation will kill regionality: winemakers

The idea of a new Greater Australia Geographical Indication is meeting with serious opposition.

Winemakers claim the move is at odds with the concept of regionality.

The GI, which has been discussed for more than a year, would include Western Australia in the South Eastern Australia GI of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.

The new GI would ease pressure on producers of SEA-labelled wine, who have seen the country go from a surplus of 900m litres to fears of a deficit, after frosts and drought struck the country during the past year.

Western Australia is the one state not to suffer from shortage of grapes. Pushing through a new appellation that would enable producers countrywide to include WA grapes in their wines would be an advantage to SEA producers.

Robert Mann, senior winemaker at Cape Mentelle in Margaret River, said that the surplus production in Western Australia in 2007 had been ‘eagerly snapped up by eastern states producers, with strong demand also for 2008 grapes’.

At present producers can include only 15% of grapes from outside their region.

As the GI takes shape, winemakers against the idea are making their voices heard.

Michael Hope of Hunter Valley-based Hope Estate told decanter.com: ‘The message it sends to the UK consumer is that we are one big generic producer. I totally disagree with SEA and Greater Australia. We need to be marketing regionality, not the allowing the homogenisation of our industry.’

Nicole Esdaile, chief winemaker at Rutherglen Estates in Victoria, pointed out that Wine Australia’s Directions to 2025 marketing plan, seeks to promote ‘wines from somewhere rather than wines from anywhere’.

She said, ‘The SEA designation has already diminished Australia’s reputation as a premium wine-producing country, and it is possible that this new name for the same idea could make the situation worse.’

A spokeswoman for Wine Australia confirmed that the new GI had been discussed, but ‘there is no deal done, and there is no paperwork in front of the GI committee yet.’

Western Australia includes Margaret River, home to Vasse Felix, Voyager Estate, Leeuwin Estate, Cullen, Cape Mentelle and other top-end wineries. It produces 3% of Australia’s wine but 20% of the country’s premium wines

The name Greater Australia is not set in stone – one possibility for an alternative was ‘Southern Australia’ but that was met with vehement opposition from South Australia producers. The obvious choice – simply ‘Australia’ – would be illegal under EU labelling regulations.

Written by Stuart Peskett

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