The identity of 18 New Zealand wine regions can now be better protected thanks to the New Zealand Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act, which came into force today. The Act is similar to France’s Appellation d'origine Controlee (AOC), which has been in place for centuries and protects the use of terms such as ‘Champagne’ or ‘Burgundy’. Italy and Spain also have equivalent laws, which protect wines such as wines such as Sherry, Rioja and Cava.

“The Act is a significant advance for the New Zealand wine industry,” said New Zealand Winegrowers Acting CEO, Jeffrey Clarke. “Our ‘Geographical Indications’ – the names and places where our wines come from – are at the very heart of the New Zealand wine story and this new law provides an additional level of protection for them.”

The Act formally recognises the collective intellectual property of a wine region by allowing for registration of the region’s name as a GI. This ensures that the name is reserved only for wine from that region.  Importantly, registration will also give the region’s winegrowers a greater ability to protect those GI names from misuse overseas. Just after midnight on the day the GI Act came into force, 18 priority applications were filed.

A person may use a registered New Zealand GI in relation to a wine if at least 85 per cent of the wine is obtained from grapes harvested in the place of geographical origin to which the GI relates, all of the constituent remainder of the wine (if any) is obtained from grapes harvested in New Zealand, and the GI is used in accordance with its registration in New Zealand. A spirit may be registered if the spirit originated in the place of geographical origin to which the GI relates, and the GI is used in accordance with its registration in New Zealand.

Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Jaqui Dean said that the Act is a great example of the government working closely with an important sector to support further growth of exports and jobs for New Zealand.

“New Zealand wine is a key export in our economy, and now with geographical indications, wine or spirit makers can apply to be recognised by a sign on products to signal their association to the quality, reputation and unique characteristics linked to particular regions, for example, Central Otago,” she said. “Registering a geographical indication differs from a registering a trade mark. Any trader, who complies with particular geographical indication provisions, is able to use it."

The Register of Geographical Indications is administered by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ). The register is a 100 per cent online model, making the process easier and more efficient.

New Zealand wine exports are valued at $1.66 billion for the year to the end of June 2017. The industry is working towards a goal of $2 billion of exports in 2020.