Wine regulation gone mad

Michele Round of The Pinot Shop (Photo:

Whatever happened to freedom of speech?

Launceston wine retailer Michele Round, of the Pinot Shop, ran into a regulatory road-block when she tried to get approval to export some Tasmanian wine for her Hong Kong outlet.

“If I were to write about the new Delamere range of sparkling wines and mention Fran and Shane’s (Delamere proprietors) trip to Champagne on the product page of my website, that would be in breach of the law (maximum penalty two years imprisonment) pertaining to Wine Australia’s protection of GIs,” says Michele.

Further, “If I were also to write about a Tasmanian riesling made by a Clare Valley winemaker, that would also be in breach. I can have that information elsewhere on the website but not on the product page, even though there is no claim that it is a Clare Valley riesling.”

Ms Round has been corresponding with Wine Australia label integrity auditor Vanessa Gebbie, who wrote:

“We are aware that you are not trying to pass off Apogee (a Tasmanian sparkling wine) as Champagne, however, as legislation explains, regardless of the context, the term is not permitted for use in the description and presentation of wine. It cannot be present on the same page as a product that is not from that region.”

With regard to the Delamere sparkling wines and the proprietors’ recent trip to Champagne, this would be permitted,

“As long as it wasn’t alongside the description and presentation of a wine that was not from that region. For example, it would be acceptable to have it on a homepage or a link to ‘About Us’.

“In short, no registered GI* or other protected term can be used in any context in the description and presentation of wine unless it is entitled to it. It is no different to the inclusion of ‘Clare Valley’ in the description and presentation of a riesling that is from Tasmania.”

No criticism of Ms Gebbie, who is doing her job, but really, who dreams up these ridiculous rules?

Readers with sharp memories will recall Adelaide-based online retailer David Farmer had a similar complaint in 2016, as did Hunter Valley winemaker Kevin Sobels last year. No doubt there are others.

*Geographical Indication

2 thoughts on “Wine regulation gone mad”

  1. Rick Burge says:

    Huon, it’s called passing off. If the word ‘Champagne’ is on the same page as the description of an Aussie product, there’s going to be an automatic assumption that it’s comparable to Champagne. Does mentioning a Clare winemaker making Riesling in Tassie add street cred to the wine – yes, in many people’s minds. Trouble is, he/she is not handling Clare fruit.
    We’re not allowed to say Rhone-style blend, or Bordeaux- style – fair enough too, because how can we have any Rhone or Bordeaux terrior in Australia.
    One of the biggest pass offs that the marketing copy-writers commit is to infer any ex-Penfolds winemakers made Grange. Again a gullible public might assume that his new venture produces Grange quality wine, which is patent nonsense.

    1. Mahmoud Ali says:

      A reasonable argument, and well explained, thanks Rick.

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