Last week we received the incredible news that The Minister for Trade and Tourism, Senator the Hon Don Farrell has turned down an EU trade deal that would prevent the production of Australian Prosecco.

Winemakers have spent the last several years adamantly defending the rights of Australian producers to label their wine as Prosecco. Christian Dal Zotto of Dal Zotto wines was one of the first people to hear about the rejection via an early phone call from his brother, Michael Dal Zotto.

“Helen Haynes, our local member for federal contacted [Michael] directly as soon as she heard from Mr Farrell, and it was early morning before the state media statement was about to go out. We were both a little bit shocked. It’s something that’s been taking up a lot of our energy and a lot of our focus, not just from the perspective of Michael and Dad’s trips to Canberra with the King Valley Prosecco Road Group, but just in terms of what the future was going to hold. All of a sudden, Mr Farrell has done the right thing and said no, this isn’t a great deal for anyone in Australia. It was probably one of the most bizarre but most exciting phone calls to get, but it was also a sense of relief,” said Dal Zotto.

Katherine Brown, fifth-generation family member and Brown Family Wine Group winemaker was among the leaders of the #SaveAustralianProsecco campaign and was similarly excited by the news.

“Of course, we love progress. We want to keep things moving. There were some really good aspects to this trade deal, but the fact that the EU really pushed on essentially taking away the grape variety name of Prosecco, we saw that the deal couldn’t be done if that was still part of the deal.

“We’re so proud of Minister Farrell and the negotiators that they listened to us and they saw just how important Prosecco as a grape variety name is to the Australian wine industry. [The Australian government] really dug their heels in and made sure that the deal didn’t go ahead,” she said.

The Prosecco appeal

The EU Free Trade Deal would have declared Prosecco a geographical indication (GI) and prevented wines outside of Italy to be labelled as Prosecco. Brown explained the importance of the varietal for the Australian wine industry.

“The Prosecco segment of the Australian wine industry is actually in growth at the moment, which is probably one of the only good news stories coming out of the Australian wine industry in terms of segment growth,” Brown said.

Brown believes that this popularity is driven by the fact that Prosecco is well suited to the Australian lifestyle.

“I believe that it’s really the occasions that we’re seeing in Australia now. We’re very much about daytime entertaining, share food, casual moments, and Prosecco just seems to fit into that so well. We talk about Champagne as a wine you open when you’ve got a celebration, but Prosecco is a wine that you open up for celebrating on a Tuesday night. It’s approachable. It’s not high cost. You can get an amazing bottle of Prosecco for $20. That’s why it’s absolutely booming and we want to continue that,” she says.

In addition, winemakers were concerned that making Prosecco a GI would cause grapegrowers to be reticent about planting and growing uncommon varietals.

“The biggest thing in our mind when we were working on this campaign, especially speaking to the politicians, was about making sure we’re future-proofing this industry.

“The biggest thing we want to prevent is for this to continue to happen. We look at grape varieties such as Fiano or Montepulciano that we see could have a really great impact on the Australian wine industry and be fantastic for our wine consumers. We want to make sure that the EU doesn’t keep turning around and saying actually, that variety is now booming over in Italy, we want that as a GI as well.

“I think this sets a strong precedent that these grape variety names can’t just be turned into GIs, and we’re not just going to roll over and let it happen,” said Brown.

A group effort

Dal Zotto and Brown were both proud of the collaboration and team work of wine producers throughout the campaign.

“This hasn’t been a single person battle, especially with the King Valley producers working closely together, [alongside] the whole wine industry. It’s such a unique industry that we are so happy to band together and help each other out. I think that’s why the government really picked us up because we made it very evident that this wasn’t just affecting a handful of people, that it would affect the entire industry if this Prosecco naming went through and set a precedent for other varieties. A big pat on the back for the whole industry, that we can work together and that we’re all into collaboration,” said Brown.

Dal Zotto echoed the sentiment, saying: “The support that we’ve all given each other has been like working with a family, but with no arguments.

“We just want to say on behalf of the Dal Zotto family and the King Valley Prosecco Road Group, thank you very much for your support, and we hope to see you in the King Valley for a couple of bottles of Prosecco to celebrate.”

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