≡ Menu

Canadians encounter similar legal issues in the wine industry to those of us in the United States: provincial regulations and restrictions with respect to shipping and transportation of alcoholic beverages, establishing new appellations, and creating law that regulates third-party services. How can these issues be resolved or maintained?

Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

An upcoming seminar on wine issues in Vancouver will discuss the techniques and contemporary issues for the British Columbian market. Law Seminars International presents the Third Annual Wine Law Seminar Focusing on British Columbia, during the Vancouver Wine Festival. This year, the topics to be discussed include new regulations, licensing structures, and opportunities. The seminar, which will be hosted on February 27, 2012 at the Metropolitan Hotel in Vancouver, will be co-hosted by attorneys Mark Hickon, Esq. of Vintage Law Group and author of the blog WineLaw.ca, and Christopher S. Wilson, Esq. of  Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP. Law Seminar International recommends “[a]ttorneys and professionals in the wine and liquor industry” attend. (See Third Annual Wine Law Seminar Focusing on British Columbia.) The agenda features important topics revolving around legal issues in the wine industry particular to British Columbia, Canada, such as provincial regulation and taxation of alcoholic beverages, selling alcoholic beverages outside of British Columbia, the licensing scheme of British Columbia, establishing new appellations, and third-part Internet services for alcohol beverages. The end of the program is followed by a wine tasting event for faculty and attendees with Sid Cross, Esq., Co-Founder and Advisor of Chefs Table Society.

The following is a description of the seminar from the co-chairs:

This seminar will progress from getting a handle on pricing and sales issues to legal issues related to marketing and the various distribution channels, including shipping law reform. Trade-marks, geographical indicators and the economics of the industry, as well as legislative trends and regulatory processes, will also be addressed.

We will bring together experts from a variety of perspectives and disciplines to share their experiences, challenges and success stories regarding this evolving landscape. Don’t miss this annual gathering of the region’s leading wine and liquor law professionals. Join us for valuable discussions about the industry, as well as the wine tasting reception moderated by Sid Cross, Co-Founder of Chefs Table Society, following the seminar.

Program Co-Chairs: Mark Hicken, Esq. of Vintage Law Group and Christopher S. Wilson, Esq. of Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP

On Reserve is delighted to announce a special discount for its readers: half  off (50% off)full-priced, regular tuition with the registrar. Simply call Law Seminars at 206-567-4490 and ask for the Registrar, Dale, to use this discount, and mention the On Reserve Discount when you register. “Regular tuition for this seminar is [$]US595 with a group rate of $US445 each for two or more registrants from the same firm. For government employees, we offer a special rate of $US395. For students and people in their job for less than a year, our rate is $US297.50. All rates include admission to all seminar sessions, food and beverages at breaks, and all course materials. Make checks payable to Law Seminars International.” (Id.) For more information, see the brochure from the seminar.

(Image Credit: Rates To Go Blog.)

{ 3 comments }

Professional Opportunities and Jobs in Wine Law

For students and even professionals interested in pursuing wine law, an avid question that often results is how to pursue wine law as a profession or professionally. Originally, when I first started my journey as a wine law researcher, I thought there was only one answer to this question: to practice wine law in a law firm, irrespective of the firm’s size. I also originally believed—quite incorrectly, actually—California to be the only state within the United States in which one could practice wine law. However, as I learned more about the field from both reading literature and speaking with a variety of practitioners, I realized there is a lot more to a professional career in wine law—just as there certainly are a lot of options aside from traditional practice one can pursue with a Juris Doctor. As a result, I thought an entry surveying the options with which I am familiar might be useful to those curious about professional pathways for wine and the law.

Quinta Nova; Douro Valley, Portugal

The most important distinction I must make before discussing the professional opportunities I know of with respect to wine and law is that wine law and alcohol beverage regulation are different. Wine law pertains exclusively to the legal regulation of the wine industry whereas alcohol beverage regulation usually entails wine, spirits, and beer. While the practice of each is not mutually exclusive, there are many opportunities that focus on one rather than the other. This blog focuses on wine law and, as I assume the majority of its readers are interested in the area of wine and the law, I will discuss the opportunities of which I am aware pertaining to wine and the law (but, because alcohol beverage regulation and wine law are not mutually exclusive, some of the forthcoming ideas may address alcohol beverage opportunities as well).

1. Traditional Firm Practice: There are many firms in the United States that have an alcohol beverage regulation division or a division exclusively focused on wine law. The types of firms vary: there are some large firms with offices located in areas with a prominent wine industry; there are medium-sized or regional firms that have either an alcohol beverage regulation division or a wine law division; there are smaller firms that have one office and focus exclusively on alcohol beverage regulation; and there are sole practitioners who may practice wine law as one of their fields. These firms are located throughout the United States, although a higher concentration tends to be found in California (e.g., San Francisco or Sonoma), Washington (e.g., Portland or Seattle), New York, and Washington, D.C.

2. Consulting: I am somewhat unfamiliar with the consulting area of wine law, but it is certainly an option to consider. There are several businesses that perform consulting matters for compliance, especially with respect to shipping alcohol interstate. Some groups in the wine industry may also provide consulting services for licenses, permits, and labeling. Organizations that fall under this category, to my knowledge, include Compliance Connection and Compliance Service of America.

3. Trade Groups or Non-Profit Organizations: The trade groups and non-profit organizations of the wine industry exist, generally speaking, with the intent to increase communication and help develop the wine industry. The mission of each group is usually different, but generally focuses on promoting wine education among American consumers (as well as international consumers). In addition to educational missions, many trade associations also work closely with legislatures to assist with legal challenges of the wine industry. Some trade groups include WineAmerica (The National Association of American Wineries), The Center for Wine Origins, The Wine InstituteFamily Wine Makers of California, and Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association (“ASWA”). Many of these organizations or groups are located in or around the Washington, D.C. area, although there are many found throughout major wine regions of the United States.

4. Research/Academia: Perhaps the most exciting field—at least, in my opinion—of the aforementioned categories is a research or academic pathway for wine and the law. Scholarly writing about wine law is certainly a field that needs much attention and will hopefully grow over time. Currently, there are a lot of law journals with articles published that discuss some legal aspect of the wine industry (i.e., intellectual property, overtones of constitutional law, trade, etc.), but generally speaking, most of these articles are not written by wine law scholars. There are few books that directly deal with legal issues of the wine industry, but there are several books that briefly discuss wine with respect to a broader legal issue (i.e., Bernard O’Connor’s The Law of Geographical Indications). Whereas there are not many schools or institutions that offer classes in wine and the law, the pathway is still a great one and is one I personally feel will grow stronger in years to come. Currently, UC Berkeley School of Law has a Program on Wine Law and Public Policy directed by academic and attorney Richard Mendelson. I believe UC Davis is also in the process of establishing a wine law program, or at least considering one, but I am not certain if that is completely accurate (the school does host a wine law conference each year. See UC Davis Wine Law Conference; see also Review of the UC Davis Wine Law Conference, June 2-4). There is also the highly recommended Wine & Law Program at the Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne created and directed by Theodore Georgopoulos, which offers both masters degrees and university diplomas in wine law. This summer, the program will focus on comparative aspects of EU and U.S. wine law. There are also a few other attorneys who teach classes or host lectures and seminars. Additionally, there are wine law conferences and seminars hosted by Law Seminars, gathering many academics and professionals. The research and academic pathways are the direction in which I hope to proceed at some point in my career.

There is a strong possibility that, because I am simply a student and continually learning about the possibilities of pursuing wine law professionally, I overlooked several opportunities. If such exist, please feel free to either leave a comment or send me an e-mail at lazahn@winelawonreserve.com. I am always interested in hearing about alternative pathways, as well as sharing such with others interested in wine and the law.

Quinta Nova; Douro Valley, Portugal

One final note to make is that wine law, although certainly with strong overtones on the West Coast, is not only concentrated on the East Coast, but also has an international focus, as well as a focus in other regions of the United States. Whereas California is the biggest producer of wine in the States, it is not the only state with lawyers knowledgeable about wine and the law. Each state has its own alcohol beverage control department or agency, which regulate the alcohol beverage industry within the state. This includes issuing licenses and permits in accordance to the state’s alcohol laws, as well as many other tasks. (See, e.g., California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, New York State Liquor Authority, and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.) On the state side, there are many different types of alcohol beverage businesses that need to obtain appropriate permits or licenses; sometimes this can be pursued in house, but other times help from outside counsel is acquired. Counsel may be members of a larger firm or even a firm without a designated alcohol beverage regulation division.

My point is simply that alcohol beverage law has overtones in all fifty states of the United States. Whereas the wine section of alcohol beverage law may be more prominent in states with a greater number of vineyards or a stronger wine industry—like California or Washington—legal overtones of the wine industry are not nonexistent in states with fewer vineyards or less involvement in the wine industry. While the strategic approach in those states may be different from the approach in states where wine is a larger part of the agriculture industry, it is still possible to practice as an attorney and oversee issues pertaining to wine and the law in any state.

{ 7 comments }

Wine and Law: A Wrap-Up for the Year

Sincerest apologies on my behalf for the lack of updates from On Reserve the last few months. This recent semester has, most certainly, been a busy one for me as I spent the majority of my time attending to my responsibilities as the Executive Articles Editor of the Brooklyn Journal of International Law Volume 37 and brainstorming ideas for post-graduation. Hopefully, the upcoming spring semester will prove to be somewhat less intense such that I can devote more time to the blog. Additionally, we plan to feature some guest writers on wine law in the upcoming months, including one from abroad, which will certainly be exciting.

Quinta Nova, Ferrão; Douro Valley, Portugal.

For now, this entry focuses on two major updates in the wine law world that occurred during the last few weeks. These updates revolve around news for third party providers (“TPPs”) in the wine world and the recent French case entailing Red Bicyclette. The update regarding third party providers is especially pertinent to the wine industry in America and the Red Bicyclette case is one that is of particular interest to the wine world.

As discussed in a prior On Reserve entry, the influx of TPPs with respect to wine and other alcohol beverage sales is one that entailed an interesting area of the law. (Read our original post on TPPs, Third Party Providers and the Future of Wine Laws in America.) In summary, the California Alcoholic Beverage Control published an industry advisory in October 2011 with respect to TPPs in the alcohol beverage industry. As previously addressed in our post, TPPs are not licensed to sell alcohol and, given the structure of their business model, do not actually obtain possession or “title” to an alcohol beverage when a sale is made to a consumer via a virtual sales site (i.e., the alcohol beverage is shipped from a manufacturer, producer, retailer, and/or a wholesaler and does not enter the premises of the TPP during the course of sale). The advisory issued this past October contends that all sales of an alcohol beverage must be made by a licensed retailer or producer but that a TPP need not be licensed as long as “all sales transactions involving Third Party Providers must ultimately be conducted by and under the control of a licensee.” (See California Alcoholic Beverage Control Industry Advisory: Third Party Providers, October 2011.) As a result, licensees working with a TPP are “ultimately responsible” for the activities pursued by the TPP on behalf of the licensee. (Id.) This fundamentally requires that orders for alcohol beverages solicited by the licensee through the use of a TPP “be transmitted by the Third Party Provider to the licensee involved” and such licensee must be identified in the sale, as well as “ultimately control the transaction, including any decisions concerning acceptance or rejection of such orders . . . [and be] responsible for, and [] control, the fulfillment of orders and the shipment of alcoholic beverages from the licensees’ licensed premises or other authorized shipping point . . . .” (Id.) Finally, of relative importance to our prior article, the industry advisory found advertisements of Internet sales to be “akin to” those found in other media venues (e.g., radio, print, etc.) such that the advertisements “only become an integral part of a sale when the sale is completed by the transfer of title of an alcoholic beverage for consideration” and the licensee’s placement an advertisement on a TPP website, without transferring title of the alcohol beverage, is not considered a sale under the California Business and Professions Code section 23025. (Id.) For further reading, please review Industry Advisory for Third Party Providers, California Sets the Table for Regulation of Third-Party Wine Providers, and Understanding the California ABC’s New Advisory for Wineries and Third Party Providers.

The implications of this advisory are interesting, given the rather antiquated history of alcohol beverage laws in the United States. The advisory ultimately recognizes the growth and changes of the industry and, with that, the necessary legal alterations to adapt to innovative business models like those of the TPPs. It will certainly be interesting to see the continued development of the online segment of the alcohol beverage industry and how the legal environment changes to accomodate such.

Quinta Nova, Ferrão; Douro Valley, Portugal.

The Red Bicyclette case stems from an instance involving fraudulently-labeled Pinot Noir sold to the United States. “Between January 2006 to March 2008 some 18.5m bottles of fake Pinot Noir—made up of mainly Merlot and Syrah—were sold to E&J Gallo and Constellation Wines, netting a profit of €7m for those involved.” (See Appeal Court Upholds Red Bicyclette Sentences.) In October of 2011, a French appeal court in Montpellier upheld the sentences imposed on Red Bicyclette suppliers. (Id.) The original sentences, which were imposed by a French court in Carcassonne in February 2010, suspended jail terms between one and six months and extended fines from 3,000 to 180,000 euros with respect to selling eighteen million bottles of falsely-labeled Pinot Noir. (See Red Bicyclette Suppliers Convicted.) In his ruling, the judge noted that the level of fraud in this case “caused severe prejudice to the wines of Languedoc in the United States.” (Id.) Whereas the appeal court upheld the sentences, it made “considerable changes” to the original sentences garnered by the Carcassonne court. (See Appeal Court Upholds Red Bicyclette Sentences.) Some defendants received longer prison sentences with lower fines whereas other defendants received fines that were substantially increased.

Photographs are property of Lindsey A. Zahn.

For more information on wine or alcohol law, direct shipping, third party providers, or three-tier distribution,  please contact Lindsey Zahn.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for general information purposes only, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice.

{ 2 comments }

Recently, I read an interesting article discussing the use of the term ‘Grand Cru’ by a United States winemaker. (See Much Ado About a Wine Marketing Designation.) The story reflects the use of the term ‘Grand Cru’ by Sea Smoke Cellars of Santa Barbara, California.  After receiving a review in 2008 from Wine Spectator writer James Laube that dubbed the winery as one of the “grand cru” properties in Santa Barbara, the winery used the term ‘Grand Cru’ on ” all of its 2009 releases.” (Id.) ‘Grand Cru’ is a term used by French wine producers and “is a rating for established vineyards, and is highly regulated as part of French wine law. The term is most closely associated with Burgundy, where it may be used on a few dozen highly regarded, high-quality vineyard parcels.” (Id.) In order to receive such a rating in France, the wine product and vineyard are continually subjected to quality control and strict regulations.

In the United States, we do not have a system that grants vineyards the title of ‘Grand Cru’ or the equivalent. “[Q]uality terms are not as regulated as they are in Europe. Most terms that imply quality, such as ‘reserve,’ are marketing terms here. They are not checked or approved by a regulatory body.” (Id.) It is interesting to consider the use of the term ‘Grand Cru’ by a non-French winery under conditions that are not as highly regulated. In the United States, using the term ‘Grand Cru’ can certainly be a marketing tactic. (See Sea Smoke Declares Own Vineyards ‘Grand Cru’ on the Label.) However, while the French may possess a strong regulatory system that awards vineyards with the prestigious title of the ‘Grand Cru’ term, is the use of this term by the French also not a form of marketing—especially to the American market?

More appropriately keyed to On Reserve readership, however, are the interesting legal implications of this term. Whereas ‘Grand Cru’ is not a legally-protected wine name (or a quality wine produced in a specified region, as outlined in the Agreement Between the United States of America and the European Community on Trade in Wine), it is still a wine term that indicates quality, standards, and regional regulation. Should the wine term ‘Grand Cru’ be protected in an analogous fashion to non-generic wines, and thus strictly reserved for wines bottled in the corresponding wine region by vineyards awarded this title? Alternatively, should the term be extended to other wine regions and allowed for marketing tactics, such we see with Sea Smoke?

For more information on wine or alcohol law, federal law, or labeling and advertising, please contact Lindsey Zahn.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for general information purposes only, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice.

{ 10 comments }

Reims, France; Champagne-Ardenne.

Some very exciting news reached On Reserve this morning, thanks to Sean Buckley of Texas Tech University School of Law. With the recent execution of the bilateral trade agreement between Australia and the EU on the first of September, this news comes to us with great understanding. This last week, Russian wine producers agreed to stop using the term ‘Champagne’ (or Shampanskoye in Russian) on products and are additionally in the process of creating a geographical indication for appellations of origin. According to an article in Harpers Wine & Spirits Trade Review, Russian producers of the Russian Winegrower and Winemaker Union gathered last Saturday at a sparkling wine fair  in Russia’s wine producing area of Krasnodar to “showcase their wines to Russian restaurateurs, wine industry professionals and journalists.” (See Russian Wine Producers to Stop Using the Term ‘Champagne’.) At the meeting, the producers signed an agreement, developed alongside the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), and agreed to use the term sparkling wine as opposed to Champagne, which furthers the protection of wine place name and origin. (Id.) Whereas the Russian Winegrower and Winemaker Union agreed to outlaw the use of the trademark ‘Sovetskoye Shampanskoye’ on its wine products, a definite timescale was not created for execution.

Boris Titov, owner of the sparkling wine producer Abrau-Durso, stated that producers recognize the problem the Russian wine industry is apparently facing: creating a place for Russia as a New World wine producer entails interacting with external wine producers and abiding by predetermined marketing rules and technological standards that are recognized in the international wine industry, including the protection of foreign geographical indications. Whereas Russian producers used the term ‘Champagne’ on its products for decades, and while there appeared to be a strong opposition for signing the agreement, Russian wine producers “voted in favour after strong encouragement from Abrau-Durso, the sparkling wine producer owned by Boris Titov.” (See Russia to Stop Using ‘Soviet Champagne’ Name.) Titov postulates that, in order for Russia’s own appellations to be recognized, Russian wine producers have to respect the appellation names of other countries and regions. (Id.) Currently, the appellation proposals are in the process of being discussed, but “are likely to focus on two main production areas: the Rostov-on-Don river valley and the Northern Caucasus, with sub-regions likely to include Anapa . . . .” (Id.)

With a trend in favor of the protection of wine place name and origin, especially with respect to Champagne, it is interesting to consider which country may be next to further the protection of Champagne.

Photographs are property of Lindsey A. Zahn; Wine & Law Program, Summer 2011.

For more information on wine or alcohol law, international trade, or direct shipping, please contact Lindsey Zahn.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for general information purposes only, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice.

{ 0 comments }

Are You Writing a Note or Conducting Research on Wine Law?

The fall season is easily characterized by what is a sizable, but highly rewarding, project for many students in their second year of law school: the note writing process for law school journals. And while concerns dwindle from, “What topic should I choose?” to “Is my thesis strong enough” to “How do I properly cite this source?” the most important consideration when writing about an area with a moderate amount of scholarly resources—at least, in comparison to larger fields of law—is the type of resources to peruse throughout the writing process.

Quinta Nova, Ferrão. — Douro Valley, Portugal

Recently, since it is the season for note writing, I received quite a few e-mails asking about my own experiences writing a note on wine and the law. I am presently in the process of editing my Note, which will be published in early 2012, and doing so allows me to reflect on the decisions I made last year with respect to my topic, the sources, and even Bluebook citation formats. As such, I realized there are more than just students, but also academics and even practitioners, who are probably also interested in learning more about researching wine and the law and, perhaps, are even publishing their own work. Accordingly, this entry serves as a guideline for some research suggestions, as well as outlines my own experiences. Whereas I am not a practitioner or an expert, nor do I claim myself to be, I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing my note—especially because it was on a topic I was eager to learn more about—and I worked on it almost every day throughout my journal’s scheduled process.

My Experiences with the Wine Industry Prior to my Note

One of the questions I receive most frequently is about my experiences with the wine industry prior to writing my note (or pior to my blog). Whereas before this last summer, my direct experiences in the industry were limited to what I read about in books and articles, I did study hotel administration at a school in a dignified New York State wine region, notable especially for its Rieslings. I also attended many wine tastings throughout my four years at Cornell and became informed about the art of wine tasting, thanks to my specialized hospitality program. My love for wine certainly began there as I explored the various wine producers of Seneca and Cayuga Lakes. Additionally, I spent my summers exploring the wine region in the eastern portion of Long Island. Those mere exploratory ventures, however, were certainly not enough to write a note with a legal thesis on the wine industry. Without firsthand experience working at a winery, my industry vocabulary was limited; I knew wine names, but the processes and terms were unfamiliar to me. Accordingly, I consulted what I felt was the best option for me at the time to familiarize myself with the industry: academic experts who wrote about wine law or about the wine industry in general. Firsthand industry experience is certainly helpful, but is not determinative of a successful note or article on wine law.

Quinta da Gaivosa (Domingos Alves de Sousa), Cumieira, Santa Marta de Penaguião

I think what particularly attracts me to the area of wine law, aside from my absolute academic interest in the unique interaction between wine and the law, is the fact that learning about wine is a continual experience through books, articles, traveling, and tasting—whereas I certainly do know a lot more about wine in terms of production, labeling, and varieties than I did two years ago, I know I still have much to learn. (But that is what excites me!) That being said, for a student or academic interested in writing about wine and the law, the field may seem overwhelming to individuals who are not familiar with wine or the industry at all. For such persons, I highly recommend reading about wine and the industry as thoroughly as possible before tackling the legal aspects of wine; domestic and international legal issues of wine do not come naturally without an understanding of how the industry works and the histories and perspectives of wine regions (specifically, comparing the Old World and the New World). For those seeking to research the legal issues of the domestic United States wine industry, a background in constitutional law—or, at the very least, an understanding of Prohibition—is indispensable.

Background Research: Where to Start?

If you are a student in law school, you have a lot of options to pursue. I suggest scanning contemporary publications—law reviews, newspapers, even blogs—to see what was recently published before collecting any serious research and developing a topic. Even if you are not a student in law school, law journal publications may still be of strong use to you; if not, a casual Google search will certainly yield appropriate academic and policy articles on the wine industry. Before choosing a topic, understand that wine law encompasses many different areas of the law: real estate and land usage, tax, intellectual property, fraud, labor law, international trade, constitutional law (21st Amendment; direct shipping; state’s powers, etc.), environmental law, food and drug law, international trade agreements (think TRIPS and subsequent bilateral treaties), and much more. Wine law is not one topic itself; rather, it is a subset of many different areas of the law, both internationally and domestically.

Quinta de la Rosa, Pinhão.

Whereas wine law is a niche practice area, there are many strong publications that can be great guides for a researcher, but the specific resources will depend upon the exact topic. Law review articles, including student notes, can be both interesting and worthwhile reads to collect more information about a specific topic (hint: check footnotes!). General books on the topic (i.e. intellectual property or geographical indications) can also add substance to research, even if not keyed specifically to the wine industry. On Reserve’s Suggested Reading tab also includes some of the resources I enjoy and find very applicable to wine and the law. There are also some wonderful resources available online, depending on the country, for international wine law issues and access to particular documents and treaties.

Finally, reaching out to experts in this field—attorneys, lobbyists, writers, academics—is certainly valuable. Such individuals will not only be able to provide valuable insight and advice but may also be able to furnish alternative angles or polish an argument, as well as direct you to additional reading material and sources.

Choosing a Topic and Developing a Thesis

Perhaps the most difficult decision for some students and writers is deciding what exactly to write about. If you are not restricted to a topic, pick what interests you most, an area for which you have a natural curiosity. If you are indifferent, use the preliminary research to understand the budding legal issues in the wine industry and choose a topic that shadows current matters. Depending on where you plan to publish, different publications have different guidelines that must be followed even before drafting your article or note.

In the beginning, remaining organized is key; after developing a thesis, a skeletal outline can help plan and arrange your story and argument (however, do note that such sketches tend to change throughout the course of research). I changed my topic twice throughout the course of writing my Note, and I certainly did not have a solid thesis until I read through a number of sources and truly understood how certain legal terms and agreements worked. I found the research process completely rewarding and enjoyable, and is the reason I continue to study and blog about wine and the law.

Photographs are property of Lindsey A. Zahn.

{ 0 comments }

Demand Truth in Labeling: Port and Douro Valley Wines

Quinta Nova, Ferrão; Oporto, Porto, Portugal

I recently returned from an incredible trip to the Douro Valley and Oporto, Portugal, courtesy of the Center for Wine Origins and the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (“IVDP”). This trip presented to me the opportunity to explore the region, to learn about both Port and Douro wines during the region’s harvest season, and to ask questions about the legal measures the region implemented to protect Port and Douro Valley wines. The IVDP of Portugal is an interprofessional public institute whose duties include recommending the adaptation of ideal winemaking and winegrowing/viticultural policies for the region, to promote and protect the region’s appellations of origin and geographical indications, and to “discipline, control and supervise the production and trade of wines produced . . . promote and guarantee their quality, and sanction all infractions of the rules and regulations governing wines and wine products . . .” (See Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto—Presentation.) Its mission is to “promote the control of the quality and quantity of Port wines, regulating the production process, and the defence and protection of the Douro and Port denominations of origin and the geographical indication of the Douro Region.” (See Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto—Mission.) Similar to the CIVC of the Champagne region of France, the IVDP pursues strong measures to protect truth in labeling and to combat any counterfeit wines labeled as Port or Douro Valley that may emerge outside of the Douro region. Such measures extend to products other than just wines, i.e. the use of the word “Port” is protected from the use on products that are not wines.

Quinta Nova, Ferrão; Oporto, Porto, Portugal

The history of the protection of Port wines is one that I find quite interesting and also parallels the history of its sister region. During the 18th century, Port and Douro Valley wines encountered a dramatic increase in demand by the British. (See Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto—History.) As a result, “as it has occurred with all great wines, active trading instigated rivalries that often gave rise to fraud and infractions.” (Id.) Exports of Port wines stagnated during the middle portion of the 18th century, but the production of Port wines continued to increase. The prices for Port wines soon decreased, along with demand, as the British accused the wine producers of “doctoring” their wines. (Id.) Accordingly,

the great Douro farmers, desirous of protecting their interests, petitioned the government of the future Marquis of Pombal to create the Companhia Geral dos Vinhos do Alto Douro. This new institution, established by Royal Charter on 10 September 1756, was directed at ensuring the quality of the product, avoiding fraud, balancing production and trade, and stabilising prices. (Id.)

The Douro region has since grown and expanded with respect to legal protections. The IVDP currently requires a seal of guarantee (Vinho do Porto Garantia) to be placed on all wines that are inspected by the institution and qualify as either Port or Douro Valley wines. This seal of guarantee is evidence that the wine product is not only produced in the Douro region, but also a form of quality control—a symbol that the customer purchasing the wine product can expect to receive a particular caliber or standard. The seal is placed on both Port and Douro Valley wines. Usually the seal is placed on the neck of the wine bottle, but some producers opt to place the seal on the back of the bottle (for which there is a similar, albeit a bit different in design, label connoting same). (Image courtesy of ThePortForum.com.)

In addition the the requirements for a seal of guarantee, the IVDP website is a comprehensive source for the laws and regulations that govern the production, manufacturing, and bottling of both Port and Douro Wines. (See Douro Wine and Port Wine—however, note that the decrees are currently only accessible in Portuguese.) Additionally, the IVDP hosts an interesting and rather colorful gallery featuring frauds of the Appellation of Origin Porto—this is yet another step in promoting consumer awareness for truth in labeling.

Finally, Louisa Fry, of the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto, speaks here about the proper seal of guarantee required for all Port and Douro Valley wines that are bottled and labeled as such within the Douro region. (Video courtesy of Kate Connors of the Center for Wine Origins.)

Quinta do Tedo, Tabuaço; Oporto, Porto, Portugal.

(All photos are property of Lindsey A. Zahn, Portugal 2011, unless otherwise noted.)

For more information on wine or alcohol law, international trade, or geographical indications, please contact Lindsey Zahn.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for general information purposes only, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice.

{ 6 comments }

An epic adventure awaits me this upcoming week as I travel to Porto, Portugal, courtesy of Center for Wine Origins of Washington, D.C., to learn about the legal protections Portugal is pursuing to protect its highly-esteemed wine called Port. Port wine, under the federal law of the United States, is considered to be one of the sixteen semi-generic wines that currently are afforded legal protection by the United States government, but are not awarded as high of an indemnity as wines classified as non-generic. (See 26 U.S.C. § 5388.) The Douro River region of Portugal claims the origin of Port wine and, accordingly, seeks to augment the international level of protection for Port wines. Port—much like the French wine Champagne produced in the Champagne region of France—is produced under very strict legal regulations, the content and narrative of which I hope to report back with upon my return to the States, created by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP). Just as the French hold Champagne in high regards, Port is considered a gift of nature to the people of the Douro region, an endowment both economically and aesthetically that is characteristic of the land, climate, topography, and the people of Portugal.

My trip to Port will be in the accompaniment of several other wine bloggers and journalists, whose introductions will be made in a later entry, in addition to Kate Connors and Jade Floyd of the Center for Wine Origins. Our trip boasts an exciting itinerary, starting in Porto, moving throughout the Douro region as we visit the Quintas of the local area and learn about their production and experiences with Port, with various dinners and tastings paired with Port wine. I am very excited to report back to On Reserve with the stories of my travels and the legal knowledge that I will certainly acquire from this trip. This trip will be a great opportunity to network with individuals in the wine industry, as well as enlighten others about wine and the law (especially considering I finally have business cards!).

{ 0 comments }

Law Seminars International presents the Third Annual Comprehensive Conference on Texas Wine Law, to be hosted in Austin, Texas this October 20th and 21st at the Hilton Austin Hotel. It is recommended that “[a]ttorneys, vineyard operators, grape growers, wine producers and distributors, government regulators involved with the production and distribution of wine, and anyone interested in the winery and wine distribution business” attend this upcoming conference to learn about the legal issues that are continually evolving and challenging the industry. (See Law Seminars International.) The Conference, which is co-chaired by Lou Bright, Esq. of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and Kimberly A. Frost, Esq. of Jack Martin & Associates, brings together experts from Texas and around the United States “to provide the latest information and participate in stimulating discussions on a range of topics of interest to those in the wine and grape growing industry and those who represent them.” (See Law Seminars International.) The Agenda features important topics revolving around wine and law—including federal and state regulations on online advertising and marketing, label requirements and strategies, social media marketing by wineries, TABC labeling, TABC marketing, and TABC tax compliance guidelines—and includes speakers from the most respected law firms and organizations in the alcohol beverage industry. In summary:

Kimberly Frost and Lou Bright, the conference co-chairs, will present a comprehensive report on alcohol issues in the recent Texas legislature as well as ongoing rulemaking initiatives at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the impact of new laws and regulations. Representatives of the Commission and the Department of Agriculture will discuss the latest events, changes and programs at their agencies and in particular, the effect of recent budget reductions. National and state experts will present valuable insights and practical information on national trends affecting wine markets and law; salient topics in federal regulation; Texas water law; the challenges of ethical practice; and state of the art marketing practices. (Id.)

The Co-Chair Statement, as written by Lou Bright, is as follows:

Once again the Annual Texas Wine Law Conference is being held on the banks of the beautiful Colorado River in Austin Texas on October 20–21, 2011. Kimberly Frost, Jack Martin & Associates, and I, conference co-chairs, are pleased to extend this personal invitation to you to join us there. We are so excited about the conference agenda and faculty that we can hardly sit still and we’re sure that you will find this to be the most enjoyable and informative CLE event of the year.

Once again our faculty is composed of recognized leaders in our industry and regulatory agencies on both the state and national level. In practical and interactive sessions they will address the current hot topics such as:

  • National developments and trends in litigation and legislation,
  • Recent events and operational practices at the TABC and The Texas Department of Agriculture;
  • An in depth look at what the Texas Legislature left in their wake after the 2011 session including the state of Texas water law
  • The latest in marketing media
  • Check out the complete agenda

So pack up your bags, your questions and your experiences and come hear from our faculty and engage with them and the attendees in two days of discussion about our industry’s storied past, its dynamic present and its challenging future. Be sure not to miss the Thursday evening wine reception!

Lou Bright, Esq. of Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association

Additionally, the Law Seminars International poses the following topics will be the core of the Conference:

  1. Which three-tier system are you talking about?
  2. State regulatory update
  3. Creative approaches to production: custom crush vs. alternating proprietorship
  4. What’s in a label?
  5. Update on significant national developments with potential implications for marketing Texas wines
  6. New and social media marketing by wineries
  7. Enforcement: Labeling, marketing, and tax compliance guidance
  8. Texas Water Law developments of importance to vineyards and wineries
  9. Texas Department of Agriculture programs impacting the Texas wine industry
  10. ADA lawsuits that swept over California’s wineries and how to avoid such litigation
  11. Ethics for lawyers practicing before the TABC

On Reserve is delighted to announce a special discount for its readers: $100 off a full-priced tuition with the registrar. Simply call Law Seminars at 1-800-854-8009 and ask for the Registrar, Dale, to use this discount, and mention the On Reserve Discount when you register. “Regular tuition for this program is $995 with a group rate of $745 each for two or more registrants from the same firm. For government employees, we offer a special rate of $665. For students and people in their job for less than a year, our rate is $497.50. All rates include admission to all seminar sessions, food and beverages at breaks, and all course materials. Make checks payable to Law Seminars International.” (Id.) For more information, see the brochure for the conference.

{ 0 comments }

A strong congratulations is in store for Australia (and France), whose laws—as of today, September 1st—no longer permit the labeling of “Champagne” for any sparkling wine produced in Australia’s wine regions. (For more information, see France Takes Back ‘Champagne’ Label From Aussie Winegrowers; see also Protection of Champagne Name Increasing Worldwide.) As a result of this great milestone, I thought it appropriate to dedicate an article to the laws of Champagne and the history of such laws.

The Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) is the trade association, located in the Champagne region of France, that represents all the grape growers and houses of the Champagne region. (See Comité Interprofessional du Vin de Champagne.) Since its establishment seventy years ago, the CIVC has created comprehensive laws that govern the growth and production of Champagne, as well as protect the economic interests of the region. The organization itself is established by a French statute “to administer the common interests of everyone within the Champagne industry.” (Id.) The CIVC laws for Champagne encompass processes such as analyzing suitable regions for grape growth and determining the proper grapes for Champange (generally speaking, only chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes are used to produce Champagne, although other grapes are allowed). Under the laws stipulated by the CIVC, only sparkling wines that conform to the regulations of the CIVC can be labeled as “Champagne.”

Abbey of Hauteville; Reims, France

The Champagne region “is defined and delimited by the law of 22nd of July 1927. It lies some 150 kilometres to the east of Paris, extending into the departments of the Marne (67% of plantings), Aube (23%), Aisne (9%), Haute-Marne and Seine-et-Marne. The zone stands at roughly 34,000 hectares of vineyards, spread across 319 villages (‘crus’) of which 17 traditionally rank as Grand Cru and 42 as Premier Cru.” (Id.) The area contains four general growing regions: the Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs and Côte des Bar. “Together[,] these [regions] encompass 281,000 individual vineyard plots, each with an average size of around 12 ares (1,200 square metres).” (Id.) The soil is composed of limestone, which is believed to affect the terroir of the sparkling wine. “This type of terrain provides good drainage and also explains why certain Champagne wines have a distinctly mineral taste.” (Id.) The region and the production of Champagne are subject to strict quotas and EU regulations governing the planting and replanting of vines. (Id.)

Champagne region; Champagne, France

The protection and labeling of wine names based on place and origin are not unique to Champagne; they are characteristic of wines that are, by American law, characterized as non-generic and—to some extent—semi-generic. (Laws outside of the States are different, as is indicated by Australia’s current change.) However, for wine products like Champagne (and tokay, port, sherry, and several others), protection based on the origin of the wine and/or grapes has not always been enforced in certain regions. Australia is one wine-growing region that, up until today, did not enforce the protection of the semi-generic wine names based on place and origin. However, in 2008, Australia signed an agreement, The Agreement Between Australia and the European Community on Trade in Wine, with the European Union to comply with the geographical indication (GI) system of the EU. The 2008 agreement, which was ratified last September, replaces an agreement signed in 1994 between the two wine powers and protects eleven of the EC drink labels and 112 of the Australian GIs. Specifically, this means that many of the wine products produced in Australia that were previously labeled according to European names, such as Champagne, will no longer be labeled under these names.

For a comprehensive background on the history of Champagne and the regulation thereof, see Margaret L. Wickes, A Toast to the Good Life: Exploring the Regulation of Champagne.

Photographs property of Lindsey A. Zahn, Summer 2011 Wine & Law Program.

For more information on wine or alcohol law, international trade, or geographical indications, please contact Lindsey Zahn.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for general information purposes only, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice.

{ 5 comments }