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US wine bodies pressure officials on .wine domain names

Trade bodies representing nearly 2,000 wineries in some of the best known US wine regions have taken on their own national government by backing tougher rules on who can register .wine internet domain names.

Grapes being harvested in Napa Valley, 2013.

An alliance of winemakers spanning California, Oregon, Washington and New York state have called on the body responsible for assigning web domain names, ICANN, to halt its planned release of .wine and .vin internet ‘top-level domain’ names.

The stance of the trade bodies, which include Napa Valley Vintners, Oregon Winegrowers Association, Walla Walla Wine Alliance and Long Island Wine Council, puts them on course for confrontation with their own national government in an increasingly tense international debate.

Winemakers in Europe and North America are concerned that rules around who can register .wine domain names are too lax, and that could lead to confusion for consumers. For example, napavalley.wine or wallawalla.wine could be registered by an outsider who has nothing to do with wine, the US trade bodies said.

‘Fine wine consumers could be deceived into believing that they are visiting a website associated with a genuine product exhibiting the specific qualities and unique characteristics of a growing region, when they are in fact being influenced by an imitator who happened to be the highest bidder for that particular domain name,’ said Tom Danowski, executive director for the Oregon Winegrowers Association.

In the EU, the European Commission has said it cannot accept the release of .wine or .vin domain names if its geographic indications system, which restricts use of famous names such as Bordeaux, Champagne and Barolo, cannot be safeguarded.

But, the US, Australia and New Zealand have written to California-based ICANN to argue that it should go ahead as planned – which is what ICANN currently plans to do.

Written by Chris Mercer

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