Australia might not be able to sell Prosecco and manuka honey on our shores for much longer. But before you start hoarding bottles upon bottles of your favourite bubbly drop, fear not. It’s just the names we’re losing.
A strange war is being waged between Australia and the world over the provenance of these products. Italy is claiming Prosecco as their own. New Zealand thinks we pinched manuka honey from the neighbours. And we ourselves are trying to prevent anyone outside Australia from popping a barramundi label on their catch of the day.
Just like in the 90s when we lost Champagne to the French, we’ll soon have to come up with a generic name for these items. The Champagne wars put a halt to the use of the name ‘Champagne’ on any wines except for those produced in the Champagne wine region of France. Everyone else had to use the far less glamorous sounding ‘sparkling wine.’
In Italy today, the name Prosecco is only used for wines made within three specific appellations, one of which is home to the city of Prosecco. Everything else is simply referred to by its varietal name - Glera.
But back in the 1960s when Otto Dal Zotto brought Glera grapes and the Italian style of winemaking to the King Valley in north east Victoria, this wasn’t the case. He had emigrated from Conegliano Valdobbiadene, a cool-climate wine-producing village in the north of Italy, where the wine du jour was a sweet, sparkling drop called Prosecco. Australians went wild for this new wine style and the King Valley became a burgeoning wine region and the local home of Prosecco.
Italy was not happy with this new found success of their signature wine and decided to register ‘the Prosecco region’ so they could protect the name. The Italian wine industry has been slowly clawing back its rights to the name in countries around the world. Japanese Prosecco is now a thing of the past and next on the agenda is Australia. Italy is taking its case against us to the European Union, where the matter will be discussed in Australia's upcoming free trade agreement negotiations.
If Italy succeeds in trademarking the name, it will be a colossal blow to King Valley tourism and to Australian winemakers. The valley is home to the Prosecco Road, a chain of wineries to wander, offering tasting experiences and bubbly brunches. The Prosecco Road would have to change its name and we may soon be seeing ‘Glera’ on the shelves. Or perhaps one of those innovative young winemakers will coin a creative new name that will make Prosecco the hottest thing since hard seltzers.
Meanwhile, New Zealand is claiming once again that Australia has stolen one of their treasured foods. The Kiwi beekeepers staked their claim on the name manuka, as it comes from the Maori word mānuka and is therefore unique to New Zealand. Australia, however, reckons the word manuka is perfectly acceptable as the name refers to the plant which holds the nectar for the honey. It’s the pavlova incident all over again!
In a flip of the situation, Australia may soon be the only place you can catch fresh barramundi fish for dinner. The barramundi farmers are claiming that it is misleading for other countries to use the word as it leads consumers to believe they are eating Australian fish due to the Indigenous name. You can kind of see their point now, right?
Whatever we end up calling all these products, Prosecco is synonymous with a good time, so top up that glass!