Europe's producers of Champagne, Port and Sherry have joined winemakers from Napa Valley, Oregon, and Washington State in signing a declaration of joint principles stating the importance of location to wine and the need to protect place names.

It is hoped this meeting marks the beginning of a broader, collaborative effort on the part of these trade associations focusing on educating consumers about the importance of wine origin and the practice of clear and accurate labeling.

The effort comes at a time when there is growing concern about mislabeling and the lack of legal protection for place names in the United States.

Last month at Vinexpo, the world's largest international wine and spirits exhibition, wine leaders from around the world signed on in support of a declaration produced by the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) that addresses this issue in very clear and simple terms.

"Winemakers worldwide know that when it comes to wine, location matters," said Joel Aiken, president of the NVV board of directors. "Our goal for this initiative is simple -- in Europe most people are familiar with the concept of 'terroir,' but in the US this concept is not part of the vernacular. We have joined together as winemakers to help promote a broader public awareness of why place is important to wine, and why the names of the places where great wines are produced need to be used accurately."

In the declaration, the signatories state that: "Wine, more than any other beverage, is valued based on its association to its place of origin -- and with good reason. The names of these places are familiar, and synonymous with quality."

The declaration goes on to say that, "The geographic place names of wine regions are the sole birthright of the grapes that are grown there, and when these names appear on wines that do not contain fruit from that region, they lose their integrity and their relevance, becoming merely words."

"Regardless of what side of the Atlantic you come from, we all agree that great wine is made in unique places all over the world and that these unique place names must be protected. A failure to do so does nothing but diminish the credibility of our industry as a whole," said Bruno Paillard, representing the Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC). "Just as it doesn't make sense for Florida oranges to come from New Mexico or Idaho potatoes from Georgia, a wine bearing the name of Napa Valley or Champagne should not come from China. We are committed to educating consumers about the importance of place and ending the use of misleading labels."

As part of the event, Champagne, Port and Sherry also announced plans to open the Center for Wine Origins later this year. The organisation will be dedicated to educating US consumers and policymakers about the importance of location and accurate labelling.