Winemakers in the King Valley are banding together in a stance against what they claim is an “unfair” bid by Italy to take away their rights to the prosecco name.
Five wineries met with Rural and Regional Australia Shadow Assistant Minister Lisa Chesters when she visited the region on Tuesday.
Wines of the King Valley president Dean Cleave-Smith said the issue posed big risks to the regional wine industry, because the popular drink would be difficult to market without a proper name, but he believed common sense would prevail.
“The long-term impact could be really significant for the King Valley if we lose the rights to the name,” he said.
“As an industry we believe we’ve got a valid argument.
“It’s just not fair and our concern is more broadly on the food sector in Australia. If it’s not prosecco, could it be cheeses or meats (that have to change a geographical name)?”
Grape vines from Italy’s Prosecco region were first imported to Australia decades ago, well before the issue around the name was raised in 2009.
Ms Chesters said Australia had time to build its case to keep the prosecco name because Europe was too busy dealing with Brexit and had not moved any further on trade negotiations.
“If they had to change the name of their brand, it could cost the industry $400 million and it could cost not just these businesses, but hundreds of jobs,” she said.
“We are very sympathetic towards the winemakers – they have invested a lot on building this brand.”
Ms Chesters said they would use the great stories of King Valley winemakers, many who have Italian heritage, to demonstrate why the prosecco name should remain.
“It’s something you’d think the Italians would be really proud of,” she said.
“I’ve got great concerns about geographical indicators because where does it begin and end? What is next?”
$50k in help for growing wineries
Plans to continue growing the King Valley’s prosecco industry are pushing ahead, despite the uncertainty of free trade agreements.
Northern Victoria MP Jaclyn Symes has announced more than $50,000 in funding for wineries, which she said would help bring tourists to the whole region.
It included money for Pizzini Wines to renovate tobacco kilns for an artist in residence program and pop-up shop for artisan producers, for Dal Zotto Wines to reduce the environmental impacts of its vineyard practices, a cooking school and wood-fired pizza oven at Sam Miranda of King Valley, and a redeveloped website for Darling Estate Winery.
“It is a fashionable wine at the moment and probably one of the greatest opportunities to grow the region in terms of the economy, visitor attractions and also job creation,” Ms Symes said.
“This fund is helping the wine industry maximise the opportunities available to better market and export some of Australia’s best wine.”