Winemakers fight plans to ban Australian Prosecco

Australian Grape & Wine has vowed to stand with Australian wine producers as they fight to retain the right to use the variety term “Prosecco” in Australia.

Winemakers visited Parliament House in Canberra this week to brief Parliamentarians on the importance of the Prosecco grape variety to Australia’s wine sector and regional economies.

The right to use the variety name on Australian bottles is under threat, as the European Union seeks to use the Australia – EU FTA as a vehicle to ban Australian producers from using the variety name.

“The fact is, Prosecco is a grape variety name, just like Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon” said Chief Executive of Australian Grape & Wine Lee McLean.

“The European Union’s approach to this issue is motivated by a desire to protect Italian producers from competition and nothing more.”

Trade Minister takes the fight to Europe

Federal Trade Minister Don Farrell is preparing to take the fight for Prosecco to Europe as Australia and the European Union begin the final negotiations on a free-trade agreement that will reduce taxes on imports and exports and improve business access to the European market.

“This is potentially you know, the biggest free trade agreement that Australia’s ever negotiated,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald ahead of his trip.

“We want to signal to the Europeans that we’re fair dinkum about this. We are in a hurry.

“We want to keep using prosecco, that’s the position we’ve adopted. We’re not changing our negotiating position. But Europeans just like us are entitled to put issues on the table, and this is a serious genuine negotiation. So we’ll listen to their arguments, and hopefully they’ll listen to ours.

“All of those are difficult issues, but I think there’s a way through.”

The value of Australian Prosecco production

The total value of Australian Prosecco production was estimated at around $205 million to December 2021, growing from a
small base of just over $60 million in 2017. Around 95% of this is currently sold on the Australian domestic market.

Twenty regions growing the variety, with the majority of production concentrated in Victoria’s King Valley and Murray Valley. 

In the King Valley, the variety is underpinning regional employment, economic growth and tourism.

Otto Dal Zotto at Dal Zotto Wines was the first person to commercially grow Prosecco in Australia.

“Prosecco is, and always has been, a globally recognised grape variety,” he said.

“We need our trade negotiators and the Australian Government to understand that there are real jobs and real people at stake” said Natalie Pizzini of Pizzini Wines. “We’ve invested in this variety in good faith and the EU is trying to move the goal posts to protect Italian producers against fair competition.”

The variety’s sales growth has been a shining light during a challenging time for the Australian wine sector.

“Australian Prosecco has grown from a small base to a total direct value of over $205 million to December 2021,” McLean said.

“It currently fetches an average price that is more than double the price of most other varieties” said Mr McLean. “Consumers only have to look at wine lists in our pubs, restaurants and cafes to see that growth in popularity.”

This growth has been driven by investment and responding to consumer tastes.

Brown Family Wine Group’s Katherine Brown said: “Our family has invested millions of dollars in equipment, facilities, people and marketing to build up Australian Prosecco to what it is today.”

Brown told ABC Radio Australian winemakers would stand strong against Italy.

“Champagne is a method and it’s made in a certain way and we understand the French want to keep that as their own, but prosecco is a grape variety,” Brown said.

“Italians have created a region in Italy called prosecco and they are claiming now that sparkling wine that comes from there is the only wine that can have prosecco on it and the rest of us who have been using prosecco grapes need to find another name.”

“These producers are here to make sure our politicians understand that decisions relating to Prosecco have significant consequences for businesses, regional communities and ultimately people. Prosecco isn’t just a bargaining chip for our negotiators” said McLean.

“If we don’t back our producers now, there is a real risk other varieties like Vermentino, Fiano, Nero d’Avola and Montepulciano will be next in the firing line.”

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