Combating Counterfeit: A Movement to Protect Wine Regions
In winemaking, there are many factors to consider if you want to produce a truly fantastic bottle of wine. There’s the kind of grape, the fermentation method, the type of barrel, whether it be oak or steel, and there’s the location. The region in which a wine is made has so much more to do with the nature of the wine than just the name of a place, it contributes to the terroir or the soil and climate of the vineyard.
Recently, there has been a bizarre growth of a strange and criminal activity: mislabeling and misusing geographic names for the purpose of selling counterfeit bottles. Sure, this may not seem like a huge deal in the grand scheme of the world, but think about it: if you pay $50 for what you think is a true Burgundy, and in reality, it came from somewhere in Oregon, you may be upset. On the other side, if you’re a winemaker in Oregon and you are truly putting your heart and soul into your wines but your competitor is labeling them as Burgundy and is selling thousands of cases but you’re only selling hundreds– well, this just isn’t right, is it?
To combat this counterfeit activity, a non-profit organization was created by 23 winery and grape growing organizations across North America, Europe, and Australia called Wine Origins and their mission is to stop the mislabeling of geographic regions across the world. Since 1977, major wine producing states have been signing laws prohibiting semi-generic names like Burgundy or Bordeaux to be used on their state wines, and laws requiring that bottles with a state or regional name must contain a certain percentage of grapes from that state.
In 2005, the Wine Origins Alliance wrote their Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place Names and Origin, a set of principles written with the goal of educating not just policymakers, but also consumers, about the importance of location in regards to winemaking. Since then, each regional organization that has joined the alliance must sign the declaration.
Now there are 23 participating regional organizations from some of the world’s most renowned wine growing regions like Rioja, Chablis, Bordeaux, and even our own Long Island. They work hard to inform lawmakers and create necessary legislation that protects wine regions around the world from counterfeit labeling, which in turns protects us as consumers as well.