French and US wine growers are arguing over terms used on EU labels

French and US wine growers are arguing over terms used on EU labels

US wine growers have demanded a “level playing field” in France after the European Commission delayed a decision allowing them to use “château” and “clos” on labels.

The EC postponement, announced earlier this week, has pleased Bordeaux wine growers, who fear an influx of château-named US wines will dilute the heritage of their product. However, the Wine Institute and WineAmerica said wines from outside France have used the terms for decades and the US only wants the same rights that other countries enjoy.

“US wineries seek a level playing field in the European Union and the opportunity to succeed based on the quality and value of their wines,” the US wine associations said in a joint-statement on Tuesday (25 September). “The US allows fair access to wine imports coming into this country; its wineries should be granted the same access by the EU.”

The statement said EU regulations allow wines from other countries, including Italy, Switzerland and Chile, to use the term “château” on wines sold in the EU. US wineries were also allowed to use the term from 2006 until the EC clamped down in 2009, it said.

It also said that French wine imports to the US far exceed US imports to France. Last year, France exported wine valued at US$681m to the US and imported $14m worth of US wine, the statement said.

A representative of geographically protected wines in Europe told just-drinks yesterday US wine makers want to “surf on the reputation” of the terms.