Authenticity in Wine?…Yea, Why Not!
Jennifer Rosen, writing in the Rocky Mountain News, hands it back pretty good to the Europeans on the issue of "place name" regulations on food and wine.
A recent bi-continental accord between the U.S. and E.U saw a number of traditional place names associated with food and wine gain greater protection. Using terms such as claret, Haut-Sauterne, hock, Marsala, , Moselle, port, retsina, Sauterne and Tokay on bottles from places other than these places are set to go by the wayside.
This sort of proprietary mindset on the part of the Europeans makes sense to me. They’ve hung their hat on the notion of "Terroir" and that the place makes the difference. And so, they’ve chosen to wear that hat too.
What I’ve always wondered but not taken the time to research is how the negotiations between the U.S. and E.U. on this issue proceeded. For example, I wonder if the U.S. negotiators ever suggested that the term "Authentic" or Authentique" might be allow only on those wines or products that are actually from the place on the label. So that, a Tawny Port from Portugal might get to use the term "Authentic Tawny Port" while Tawny Port-styled wine from Australia might simply be labeled "Tawny Port".
This strikes me as something the Europeans might have considered for a couple of reasons. First, it would have been a concession from their hard line stand and earned them the opportunity to ask for something else of value. Second, the implied denigration that would be applied to those products without the world "authentic" on the label would seem to match many producers of wine and food on the Continent who seem to enjoy denigrating other countries’ products.
That said, Rosen brings up a good point first mad by the the Australians in their own concession to stop using European place names on their food and wine products:
"Australia sees justice at the end of the tunnel. Their trade body
theorizes that as port and sherry are phased out and "vintage liqueur"
or "fortified red stuff" is phased in, consumers gradually will forget
all about those once-generic Euro names. Instead of being the
beneficiary of our marketing and consumers, they posit, eventually
Europe and its archaic appellations and regulations will be left out in
In the end, I’m inclined to believe that place names are important. Despite what I’ve written in the past about the idea of terroir, I am in fact a "terroirista" and believe that the place and the name and the product ought to match.