New Zealand wine regions can now register for the protection of an official geographical indication after an 11-year-old piece of legislation came into force today.

The Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act, first passed in 2006, allows wine regions to register with the Intellectual Property Office New Zealand and ensure the region's name is reserved only for wine of that area.

The model is similar to one which has been used in Europe.

France has used the Appellation d'origine Controlee (AOC) for hundreds of years and certain regions also use geographical indicators (GI). It means for instance, that only wine from Champagne and Burgundy can be referred to as such.

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Italy and Spain have similar protection with the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and the Denominacion de Origen respectively which affords protection to wines such as Sherry, Rioja and Cava.

Central Otago wine maker and NZ Winegrowers director James Dicey said unlike AOC and DOC, the New Zealand geographical indicators would not restrict the types of grapes grown or attempt to guarantee quality.

Dicey said the new measure would give consumers confidence in the wine they were consuming, especially in the overseas market.

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 $2b of exports in 2020.

New Zealand Winegrowers acting chief executive Jeffrey Clarke said the introduction of GI was a significant advance for the local wine industry.

"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," Clarke said.

"Importantly, registration will also give the region's winegrowers a greater ability to protect those GI names from misuse overseas," he said.

Johanneshof co-founder Warwick Foley welcomed the new protection. Foley agreed that regions needed to be defined and protected but said it had taken too long.

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"Europeans have been doing this for years," he said. "We should have done it a long time ago."

Peregrine managing director and co-founder Lindsay Mclachlan said the new measure was "terrific".

"We're seeing a lot more interest in New Zealand's regions and this lends us more legitimacy," he said.

"It's a great thing for a winery like Peregrine, which is strengthened by its connection to Central Otago," McLachlan said. "We're pleased to see it."

NZ Winegrowers said 18 priority applications had already been made since midnight.