The Federal Government has announced a $100,000 grant to protect Australian prosecco producers.
Minister for Education Dan Tehan said the grant would ensure Australia’s billion-dollar wine industry remains globally competitive.
Monash University legal academics will use the grant to investigate the criteria, evidence and procedure that should be required to establish a geographical indication of wine, as used in trade agreements and legal disputes.
“Our research into geographic indications for wine will ensure local wine makers aren’t disadvantaged by foreign producers making spurious claims for the exclusive use of wine names, such as prosecco,” Tehan said.
“Our Government is investing in partnerships between universities, industry and government to drive the commercialisation of research. We are encouraging greater collaboration between universities and businesses on research innovation and workforce preparation.”
Prosecco contributes about $60 million to Australia’s wine exports, a figure that is expected to rise to $500 million over the next decade.
Producers are deeply concerned that EU efforts to stop them using the name “prosecco” will have catastrophic effects on the industry.
Italy wants “prosecco” to be classified as a geographic indicator similar to Champagne and changed the grape name from prosecco to glera in 2009.
The European Commission tried to register Prosecco as a GI in Australia in 2013, but the bid failed after Australia argued it was a generic variety name like chardonnay.
But the battle went back on the table in July last year, with Michele Geraci, Italy’s undersecretary of state for economic development, telling ABC News that he expects Australia to give up the name as part of the latest round of EU trade negotiations.
He said he was prepared to look at “sunset clauses” for anxious Australian prosecco producers.
“There would be a transition period where the local producer would have to adapt or adjust because we don’t want to go to another market to hurt anyone specifically,” he explained.
The Australian wine industry claims being unable to use the term will jeopardise up to $200 million in wine sales within four years.
Research published in the Australian Intellectual Property Journal from Monash University has already maintained that prosecco has been a grape variety since the 18th century.
Wine sector investment in future of Australian prosecco
Australian Grape & Wine has welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement that it will provide $100,000 in funding to Monash University to clarify the legal basis for protecting geographical indications (GI) for wine in trade agreements.
Australian Grape & Wine will contribute its views to the research team over the life of the project.
Chief Executive Tony Battaglene said: “This investment is important and timely, and we hope it will help ensure Australian producers can continue to use long-standing and internationally recognised grape variety names on their wines. It will enable Monash University to delve more deeply into the legalities of GI protection, and help establish rules and procedures that are evidence-based and transparent”.
“Prosecco, like Chardonnay or Shiraz, is an internationally recognised grape variety. Australian Grape & Wine is working hard to ensure Australian wine businesses can continue to use it in the face of European objections.
“We hope this investment strengthens our argument that Australia’s grape and wine producers must be able to compete on a level playing field with other wine producing nations. Many businesses have made significant investments in prosecco plantings, infrastructure and branding, and all are acutely aware of the European Union’s (EU) desire to stop them from using the name. Given this, and the widespread interest in GIs in the context of the proposed Australia – EU Free Trade Agreement, it is clear this research is in the national interest”.
“The Australian Government understands our position on prosecco, its potential for future growth, and how important it is to regional communities across Australia. We have had great support so far from both the Minister for Trade Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, and the Minister for Agriculture Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, and Minister Tehan’s announcement is a further demonstration of the Government’s support for the sector. We look forward to working with Monash University and the outcomes this research project will deliver.”