EU and US reach historic wine labelling deal

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

US wine producers may soon scrub names of traditional European wine
regions, like Champagne and Burgundy, off their bottles in exchange
for better access to EU markets, in a breakthrough deal.

The US administration has agreed to propose to Congress that it should limit the use by American producers of 17 'traditional' wine names found in the European Union.

If passed, US wine producers would not be allowed to use the names, currently seen as generic, on any new products.

The 17 are: Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Chianti, Claret, Haut-Sauterne, Hock, Madeira, Malaga, Marsala, Moselle, Port, Retsina, Rhine, Sauterne, Sherry and Tokay.

It is thought the EU may be ready to implement its side of the agreement by early next year.

A spokesperson for the European Commission said the deal was a little bit 50-50, with both sides agreeing to recognise each other's wine-making practices; something that should also help American wine-makers to gain greater access to EU markets.

"Once the US has changed the status of the 17 EU wine names currently considered as semi-generics in the US, it will benefit from very simplified certification requirements in the EU,"​ said the Commission in a statement.

"It is a first step and we want to go further than this, but it is important because with this agreement the Americans will not go the World Trade Organisation if we have problems in wine,"​ said the Commission spokesperson.

Both parties agreed to solve all future wine disputes through informal discussions rather than using WTO arbitration.

US wine producers will provisionally be able to continue using 14 other traditional EU names, including classic, clos, vintage, ruby and superior for the next three years, though this may be extended.

A second round of negotiations is set to begin 90 days after the deal comes into force.

This will involve: a dialogue on geographical indications, a dialogue on the matter of names of origin including the future of the semi-generic terms, a dialogue on the use of traditional expressions, low alcohol wines, certification, wine-making practices and the creation of a joint committee on wine issues.

The second stage of negotiations is expected to be a little more difficult, but European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said the initial deal was a big step forward after 20 years of on-off negotiations with the US.

"The US is our biggest market, importing EU wine worth about €2bn in 2004. This deal will remove the legal uncertainty which has hung over this trade for several years and benefit producers on both sides of the Atlantic,"​ she said.

Related topics Markets Beer & cider

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