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Farmer falls foul of EU agreement

woman buying wine in the supermarket

Retailer, wine writer and geologist David Farmer has gotten into trouble with the authorities for promoting wines for sale with references to European wines, on his blog, www.glug.com.au.

It seems that a little-known effect of the agreement that Australia ratified with the European Union about 20 years ago makes it illegal to promote wine for sale with reference to European styles, such as this:

“This Tasmanian sparkling wine represents far better value than most Champagnes”.

Or even

“This is an excellent Rhone-style shiraz from a cool-climate Aussie region.”

The law does make a distinction between wine writers who are not selling wine, and people who are promoting wine for sale, such as retailers and wholesalers. Wine writers, it seems, can make a comparison such as the above with impunity – which is a relief to yours truly.

The maximum penalty for infringement is two years in jail or a solid fine.

In reality, the Australian Grape and Wine Authority (Wine Australia), which polices the law, gives anybody it finds to be offending, a chance to delete the offensive words. This seems only reasonable, as this law is (in my opinion) not widely known, and often breached unwittingly.

You may recall the agreement gave Australian wine better access to EU markets in return for our desisting with the use of European names on our labels – names such as Chablis, Champagne, Burgundy, moselle, port and sherry.

This is totally reasonable. Australians would be unhappy if French wineries began promoting French cabernet as Coonawarra style – not that they would.

As a country we have been gradually moving away from those old comparisons anyway, it seems to me. It’s less common these days for writers or retailers to describe chardonnay as ‘Burgundy-like’, for example. Our winemakers are keen to have their own regional styles recognised, without having to make fawning references to the Old World.

However, the penalties for breaching this particular law seem excessive to me.

You can read all about it on David Farmer’s blog, where he details the correspondence with AGWA.

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