4 Nov 2015

Vintage year for new wine, spirit protections

8:57 am on 4 November 2015

After sitting on the backburner for a decade, the government is now moving to set up a geographic protection system for wine and spirit makers.

New Zealand wine

Wine is New Zealand's sixth biggest export earner. Photo: AFP

It is hoping it will lead to greater premiums in foreign markets.

Key voices from the wine industry say it is about time.

Geographical indications registration systems are common overseas and guarantee consumers that a product comes from a specific area and possesses particular qualities as a result - think Champagne or Scotch whisky.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Paul Goldsmith said some consumers were prepared to pay a significant premium for wines from certain New Zealand regions.

The new system will help exporters market their products and is part of talks surrounding the potential free trade agreement with Europe.

"It's important for the New Zealand wine industry, which is an incredibly successful industry and growing rapidly that it has ability to protect those geographical indicators," he said.

"It's also frankly part of that wider conversation we're having with the European Union hopefully leading to a free trade agreement down the track."

New Zealand Winegrowers chair Steve Green said wine makers in areas such as Central Otago, Hawke's Bay, Martinborough and Marlborough had long traded on their region's location and reputation.

But there's never been any legal recognition of these areas by the government, he said, and the new system would give growers more security.

"From time to time, there are growers or wineries in various countries that will capitalise on a name from New Zealand - so we've even had things like use of the South Island.

"Really, this Act will give us a greater protection to ensure that doesn't happen in the future."

Master of Wine Bob Campbell said a geographical registration system had been a long time coming and was well overdue.

But, in saying that, New Zealand wine had high integrity, he said.

"To be fair, I think if it's got Martinborough or Marlborough on the label now without the geographic indications act, they [consumers] don't have too much to worry about.

"So it's never been an issue but if they want to dig around and see whether it is supported by legislation, no it's not right now... but yes, it will be when this act comes through," Mr Campbell said.

Labour's primary industries spokesperson Damien O'Connor said it was about time the government introduced the system.

"The international marketplace is saying that we want to know where our food, where our wine, where our quality products are coming from."

In 2006, the Labour government passed a law that would have brought in a geographical indications system, amid fears that New Zealand wine would faced hurdles in Europe without one.

But the wine industry decided it wasn't needed, and it was never implemented. 2015, however, seems a vintage year to bring it in.

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