In the immortal words of New Zealand’s most famous model, Rachel Hunter, and a certain TV advertisement: ‘It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen’.
The ‘it’ in question is news today that the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Amendment Bill was passed in parliament last night.
What does this mean?
Is it good, bad or neutral for New Zealand wine?
New Zealand Winegrowers head honcho, Philip Gregan, says it will be a significant advance for this country’s wine industry because it will provide a level of protection for our wines’ place of origin. In other words, the Geographical Indications Registration Amendment Bill (GI RAB) will protect the authenticity of New Zealand wines, where they come from and how they are labelled.
This could make it rather tricky to fudge the names on front labels of wines. Not that there is mislabelling, but legally protected place names will provide more precision, which can only be a positive for an industry so fixated on promoting place when it comes to wine identity. And understandably so. Climate alone plays an enormous influence on the character and the taste of the fruit growing in any environment, to say nothing of latitude, altitude, soil types, soil drainage ability, slopes, irrigation (or not), how vines are trellised (or not) and how they are pruned, along with a raft of other factors which vary depending on where the place in question is.
The introduction to New Zealand of a legally binding Geographic Indications Act means that winemakers now have the opportunity to draw wine drinkers’ attention to very specific places by using their (geographically indicated and legally defined area) names, informing people of the story behind those places, their names and the wines that come from them.
The new law also opens the door to strongly promote the authenticity of specific regions, sub-regions and places to the international wine market. And this brings New Zealand into line with almost all other wine producing countries in the world today. I can’t think of another country with no established Geographical Indications law.
Gregan says the new Act will provide a platform for New Zealand wine producers to promote their wines and regions in international markets with an emphasis on place – that little word which means so much when it comes to wine.
In Europe, the concept of place is everything for the highest priced wines in the world and encapsulates everything from climate, altitude and harvest dates to the factors mentioned above, along with a plethora of other rules, which vary from one region to the next.
Do we want such staunch dictates on the labelling and laws of New Zealand wine? Let the debate begin.
New Zealand wine exports are valued at $1.6 billion for the year to the end of October 2016. The industry is working towards a goal of $2 billion of exports in 2020.