NAPA VALLEY VINTNERS VOTES TO ‘SUNSET'MISDESCRIPTIVE USE OF GEOGRAPHIC BRAND NAMES
11/4/1999 - The Napa Valley Vintners Board of Directors today approved a position that would further protect and enhance the integrity of winegrowing regions throughout the United States.
The NVV will move forward with a proposal that will phase out wine brand names that misuse geographic identity.
The NVV plan would put an end, in ten years, to the practice of putting a geographic brand name on the label of a bottle that did not contain wine produced from grapes from the indicated region.
"Following extensive study and debate of the issues surrounding misdescriptive geographic brand names, it became clear that in order to fulfill our mandate to protect the integrity of the Napa Valley Appellation, it was necessary for the Vintners to push for rulemaking changes at the Federal level," says Tom Shelton, NVV president. "If adopted, our proposal may prove disruptive for many brand owners in the short term, but the healthy evolution of a meaningful American Viticultural Area system is needed and I'm very proud of the action taken today by our Board of Directors."
The Vintners position is as follows:
1. Wineries with grandfathered geographic brand names (under CFR Section 4.39(i)) should not be allowed to produce misdescriptively labeled wines for more than ten years from the date this policy is adopted. After this sunset date, grandfathered brands should be used only on wines made from grapes grown with the county or counties from which the geographic brand name originates.
For example, if a grandfathered geographic brand name coincides with an AVA named for a county, such as Napa or Sonoma, after ten years that brand must source its grapes from within the named county. If a grandfathered geographic brand name coincides with an AVA that is smaller than the county or counties containing that AVA, after ten years that brand must source its grapes from within the applicable county or counties. For example, Oakville Cellars may source its grapes from Napa County and not just Oakville because the Oakville appellation is wholly contained in Napa County.
2. In addition, during the ten year phase-out period, brands with geographically misdescriptive names would be required to use a disclosure statement on their labels.
The statement would read, "[Geographic Brand Name] does not indicate the origin of grapes in this wine." The same exemption applies for brand names containing an AVA smaller than the county or counties in which the AVA is wholly contained, such as the Oakville example, above, as long as grapes are sourced within the county or counties containing that appellation.
3. Regarding the issue of "first in time, first in right," the Board's proposed position is that if a new appellation is established, no new Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) containing that AVA name can be issued. A geographic brand name should not preclude the establishment of an AVA containing that name, if the AVA meets the requirements established by BATF. No new COLAs for brands containing surnames that are identical to previously approved AVAs may be issued.
The NVV will submit a petition to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to strengthen and enhance the agency's rulemaking on the use of geographic brand names.
The Napa Valley Vintners is a professional non-profit trade organization representing 162 Napa Valley wineries in marketing and promotional activities throughout the United States and abroad. NVV maintains a website at www.napavintners.com and a year-round, 24-hour informational hotline at 1-800-982-1371.