Research debunks EU prosecco claims

By Country News

As the European Union takes steps to protect Italian wine producers from international competition, Monash University research shows prosecco is a grape variety and should not be considered a geographical indication.

The EU is demanding that Australian wine producers be prohibited from marketing wine labelled ‘prosecco’ as a condition of its entry into a new bilateral trade agreement.

The EU maintains the word ‘prosecco’ is a geographical indication for a type of wine made in northern Italy, and not a grape variety.

Prosecco has been produced in Australia since the early 2000s, after grape vines were imported from Italy in 1997.

Researchers from Monash University’s Faculty of Law have maintained in a study, published in the Australian Intellectual Property Journal, that prosecco has been the name of a grape variety since the 18th century, and probably much earlier.

Professor Mark Davison, Dr Caroline Henckels and Associate Professor Patrick Emerton argue the EU’s characterisation of prosecco as a geographical indication has a protectionist effect and is likely to contravene World Trade Organisation rules on intellectual property and product labelling.

‘‘The Australian Government should not jettison the commercial interests of Australian wine producers without a detailed consideration of the evidence that supports, or fails to support, the assertions of the EU,’’ Dr Henckels said.

‘‘Trading dubious geographical indications for access to European markets is a shortsighted approach that will negatively affect Australian industry.’’

Prosecco exports are worth $60million annually and are predicted to rise to $500million over the next decade.

‘‘Both the EU and other governments that have banned or propose to ban imports of Australian wine labelled as prosecco should be on notice that such behaviour might well contravene their WTO obligations,’’ Dr Henckels said.