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
the cold."

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.

Posted In: Wine Business


4 Responses

  1. allan - December 29, 2005

    I find it amusing that Rosen’s article comes out on the same day that the Napa Valley Vintners are in the Supreme Court protecting their “Terroir”. I contrasted the two on my blog, with a nod of the hat to you:

  2. Jerry - December 29, 2005

    Once again, you bring us a timely and complex issue to chew on. Especially this week, in the Champagne Aisle (woops I just misused that term), this issue comes to the fore. Sophisticated consumers know Champagnes only come from Champagne and why they cost more on average than sparkling wines do. But the many Nashville consumers (and I suspect elsewhere in the USA) who only buy bubbly once or twice a year are not apt to be that sophisticated. What they are is confused. Sparkling wine? Is it bubbly? And what about Asti and Spumante? Korbel infuriates the French with their “California Champagne” labels, but they know it helps with the confusion at their price point. I understand the position taken on these terroir designations, but I doubt that the French and other Europeans’ hard line stance will help them much. Perhaps labeling authentic Champagne as “Appellation Champagne” would be better? Interestly, it is not the Champagne designation that sells Cristal at $275 a bottle, but more often the fact that it has a brand name which has been promoted in pop culture. Cheers!

  3. Randy - December 30, 2005

    This is an interesting issue. Seems to me it’s one of Old World vs New. Europeans have a history and wine making traditions that go back centuries. I think that demands a certain awe and reverance. I’m amazed they have put up with the abuse so long. Where do California producers get off putting cheap pap in a box and calling it Chablis? It’s a huge insult. Of course, every place has a terroir, even California. It just doesn’t mean much when you source juice from God only knows where. Ironically Europeans are not without fault. Look what Bola and others did to Soave! I recently read that Friulians may have to stop using the name Tocai, as in Tocai Friulano. Tocai or Tokaji belongs to the Hugarians.

  4. 人気Blogランキング[今週9位] - April 14, 2006


    A recent bi-continental accord between the US and EU saw a number of traditionalplace names associated with food and wine gain greater protection. Using termssuch as claret, Haut-Sauterne, hock, Marsala, , Moselle, port, retsina, …

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