What’s in a name? Everything, according to leaders from 15 of the world’s wine regions, who called on policymakers to heed growing consumer demand for wine truth-in-labeling. While I already knew that Champagne is only true champagne when it comes from the champagne region of France, I didn’t realize that other types of wines (e.g. sherry or port) are not styles, they are, like Champagne, a region. I learned at a press conference that place names are being used and abused all over the world, including in the United States. when someone mis-uses a place name on a product they are, in effect, stealing part of that region’s identity.
Results from a recent poll of U.S. consumers, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, released today found that Americans, in particular, have very strong feelings about the role of location in making wine-purchasing decisions. Among the findings was that 79 percent of wine drinkers consider the region where a wine comes from an important factor when buying a bottle of wine, and 75 percent report they would be less likely to buy a wine if they learned that it claimed to be from a place like Champagne, Napa Valley or Oregon, but in actuality was not. But when presented with two labels to compare side by side, most consumers were unable to determine the correct origin of the wine. This underscores the challenges winemakers face with current labeling laws.
To help raise awarenss of the issues, vinters from the US and abroad have created a Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin, a coalition first formed in 2005 when the initial global declaration was signed. In addition to the growing number of wine regions joining the campaign to protect place names, some of the world’s preeminent names in food and wine have joined hands with the coalition as well. An open letter was released today signed by chefs and sommeliers lending their support for truth in wine labeling. Signatories include Thomas Keller from Per Se and the French Laundry; Ferran Adrià from El Bulli; Daniel Boulud from Daniel; Alexandre Ferrand from Alain Ducasse; Wolfgang Puck from Wolfgang Puck Restaurants; Antoine Hernandez from Joël Robuchon; Michel Richard from Citronelle; José Andrés from Jaleo and minibar; Pontus Elofsson from Noma; Charlie Palmer from Charlie Palmer Restaurants and many others from around the globe.
By signing the Declaration, the 15 wine regions have collectively affirmed that geographic names are fundamental tools for consumers to identify the wines from specific wine-growing areas. But as a consumer, it is also up to you to read labels carefully and insist upon truth in labeling when you choose the wine you buy. “Chablis” from California is a misnomer, for example. You have the ability to make good choices, so I hope you will also support the struggle to protect place names by choosing authentic products from the correct place of origin.
The Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin was originally signed on July 26, 2005, and now has the support of 15 international wine regions including Champagne, France; Chianti Classico, Italy; Jerez, Spain; Long Island, New York; Napa Valley, California; Oregon state; Paso Robles, California; Porto, Portugal; Rioja, Spain; Sonoma County, California; Tokaj, Hungary; Victoria, Australia; Walla Walla Valley, Washington; Washington state; and Western Australia. These quality wine regions have come together to foster the growing global recognition that location is the most important ingredient in wine. To lend support and read the full text of the Declaration, visit www.protectplace.com