The recent Exporter Update in Adelaide presented an excellent opportunity for Rachel Triggs, General Counsel for Wine Australia, to update our exporters on what regulatory developments mean for them. Rachel outlines these developments and what they mean for the Australian wine community in our latest blog...
Recent administrative action by Wine Australia and lessons learned for bulk wine buyers
In 2015, Wine Australia cancelled an export licence held by a company who exported a large volume of wine labelled as Pinot Gris that was not Pinot Gris. The matter illustrates the importance of all parties in the supply chain ensuring that accurate records are kept under the label integrity program rules (pertaining to vintage, variety or origin). Not only is failure to do so an offence under the AGWA Act, but it can also result in messy commercial disputes.
Accordingly, bulk wine buyers should consider seeking contractual warranties from their suppliers to ensure that wine is what they say it is. In other words, put the onus back on them to ensure that the wine is what they say/think it is and ensure you have remedies against the supplier in the case that it isn’t.
Regulatory developments - Use of GIs on websites – what are the rules?
As a result of the EU Wine Agreement which recognised that terms such as “Champagne”, “Chablis” and “Burgundy” had become generic, European geographical Indications (GIs) are protected under Australian law. This means that unless a wine is sourced from those GIs, their use is not permitted.
When considering the permitted use of GIs and traditional expressions, it is important to remember that the rules apply to all description and presentation of wine including advertising on websites.
It is also important to remember that the protection extends to the use of a GI even when it is accompanied by expressions such as ‘kind’, ‘type’, ‘style’, ‘imitation’, ‘method’, or any such similar expression.
There are some situations in which the use of GIs in advertising material might be permitted. For example, referring to a winemaker’s history in terms of where they have worked would be permitted, as long as the text was not used to describe the wine. To avoid unlawful use of GIs, we recommend that such information be displayed on a different page within a website to those that describe the wine.
Regulatory developments - Proposed amendment to the Food Standards Code affecting water additions
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has received and application from the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA) to amend standard 4.5.1 of the Food Standard Code (the Code).
The amendment will clearly allow for the limited addition of water to high-sugar grape juice and must to reduce the chance of problems arising during fermentation.
The proposal establishes that water may be added to grape juice or must to reduce the sugar level of the juice or must to a minimum of 15° Baumé.
This is in addition to the maximum 70mL/L currently allowed under the Code to allow the incorporation of permitted additives or processing aids, and for other reasons incidental to the winemaking process (which must be made in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice, the amount added being the very minimum required to achieve the desired effect).
It is expected that the proposal will be adopted by FSANZ and that the amendments to the Food Standards Code will be made by mid-2017.
Regulatory developments in China – trade mark precautions
The Chinese trade mark system operates on a ‘first in first served’ basis. Unlike in Australia, there are no rights afforded for prior trade mark use.
Accordingly, Wine Australia encourages industry to register their trademarks; in both English and Chinese, prior to contemplating doing business in China.
Failing to do so often results in another party registering that transliteration in China and effectively gaining exclusivity in the territory. In particular, exporters should be wary of distributors who offer to register trade marks on their behalf and then do so in their own name.
Wine Australia recommend that exporters have a trade mark lawyer register their brands on their behalf (to ensure the registration is in the right name), rather than relying on distributors.
Regulatory developments - Manganese in China
Previously, exporters have encountered problems with exporting wine to China where wines have had naturally occurring manganese levels above 2ppm.
The Chinese standard placing a maximum limit on manganese concentration on wine exported to China has been amended. Under the new rules, there is no reference to a manganese limit, and potassium permanganate is no longer a permitted additive. Wine Australia have received verbal confirmation from the Chinese authorities that they are no longer testing for manganese in imported wines and we have not received any reports of wine being rejected in China for excess manganese concentration in the last 12 months.
This information is presented in good faith and on the basis that Wine Australia, nor their agents or employees, are liable (whether by reason of error, omission, negligence, lack of care or otherwise) to any person for any damage or loss whatsoever which has occurred or may occur in relation to that person taking or not taking (as the case may be) action in respect of any statement, information or advice given via this channel.