The Wine Origins Alliance

The Wine Origins Alliance (The Alliance) was founded in 2005. It is a concerted effort by the top wine growing regions of the world to demand that a wine’s true origin be clearly identified on a bottle’s label.

They believe that when it comes to wine, Location Matters.

The Alliance represents 23 winery and grape growing organisations from the Barossa valley (Australia), Bordeaux (France), Bourgogne and Chablis (France), British Columbia (Canada), Champagne (France), Chianti Classico (Italy), Jerez-Xeres-Sherry (Spain), Long Island (USA), McLaren Vale (Australia), Napa Valley (USA), Oregon (USA), Paso Robles (USA), Port (Portugal), Rioja (Spain) Santa Barbara County (USA), Sonoma County (USA), Texas (USA), Tokaj (Hungary), Victoria (Australia), Walla Walla Valley  (USA), Washington State (USA), Williamette Valley (USA) and Western Australia (Australia).

At a press conference at VinExpo New York 2018, David Pearson, CEO of “Opus One wineries” and the Chair of Napa Valley Vintners, one of the founding members of the Wine Origins Alliance said the Alliance “Represents a number of the world’s leading wine regions coming together to make a clear, collective statement that stands to insure that wine region names are protected, and not abused, or miscommunicated to consumers”. 

In March, The Alliance made a pitch in Washington to law makers to protect all of the wine regions from around the world.

The Alliance conducted a poll, (the results of which were released on the 5th of March) which clearly indicated that 94% of American wine drinkers support laws that would protect consumers from misleading wine labels. The results emphasise the role that location plays in wine.

“This survey reflects what we already knew: consumers want wine labels to accurately reflect the contents of the wine bottle,” said Anthony Sannino, president of the Long Island Wine Council.

The poll was conducted by GBA Strategies. It found that 70 percent of American wine drinkers believed that “allowing American producers to misuse foreign wine region names on their labels is deceptive to American consumers”. It also revealed that “70 percent believe that allowing American wine producers to misuse region names makes it harder for U.S. wine regions to protect the misuse of their name on foreign labels.”. Furthermore, it found that “79 percent of consumers consider the region an important factor when buying a bottle of wine”.

“We represent some of the world’s leading wine regions that have taken a clear, collective stand to ensure wine region names are protected and not abused or miscommunicated to consumers,” said Linda Reiff, president and CEO of the Napa Valley Vintners. “But here in the United States, some wine region names are not protected. This makes it hard for Napa and other U.S. regions to protect their names around the world when their very own government doesn’t extend that same protection to others.”

It is interesting to note that in the EU and Australia, wine region names are protected through a registry of Geographical Indication names.

 In the US, wine region names are protected through well-established federal and state laws that protect “American Viticultural Areas”, or AVAs, for the wine industry inside its borders.

However, the U.S. permits the use of wine region names like “Champagne”, “Chablis”, “Chianti”, “Port” and “Sherry” on labels of wines that do not originate in those European regions.

To add to the argument in favour of protecting wine region names, Carl Money, founding member of the Texas Wine Growers said “Texas has been making wine since the 1600s. Its distinctive climate and land has influenced the winemaking process. Thus, the Texas name should not be used on labels if the wine wasn’t produced there,”. “The same should be true for Long Island, Napa Valley, Champagne, Sherry, Chablis, Chianti Classico, Bordeaux and all other wine-growing regions.”

My take: it should be interesting to see how this pans out, as protecting a wine region’s name is synonymous with protecting consumer interests, wherever they may be in the world. Members of The Alliance met law makers in the US to present their case in March of this year. On the 8th of March 2018, it was announced that there was an introduction of a bipartisan congressional resolution, H. Res. 766, that recognizes the uniqueness of American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). The resolution was co-sponsored by Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) and Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-1).