Juliet argued to Romeo that his name was his enemy. She contended that the names of things do not matter and that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. In the world of wine, this is far from the truth.
I was able to spend some time with Rex Stults, Government Relations Director of the Napa Valley Vintners. Rex spends the majority of his time working to protect the name and image of Napa Valley wines around the world. Last month, the NVV achieved certification mark status for Napa in Taiwan and Australia. This “win” is but a small fight in a long war.
In 2000, the NVV sponsored California legislation requiring that any brand using the name “Napa” or names of appellations in Napa to at least be 75% from Napa. Bronco Wine Company, the company producing Napa Ridge and Rutherford Vintners, challenged that statute and it was finally resolved in 2005 when the State Supreme Court ultimately upheld the Napa Name Law and the United States Supreme Court declined to review the appeal. That same year, Napa joined with representatives from Champagne, Porto, Jerez, Washington State and others to sign a Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place and Origin. The Declaration states the intent to protect the place names. The major wine regions of the world, like Chablis, Burgundy, Rioja and Sonoma have since joined in.
In 2007, Napa became the first region outside of Europe to be granted Geographical Indication (GI) status by the European Union. And in 2012, China granted GI status in what was a huge accomplishment. Exports from Napa to China have doubled in the last three years, and many Chinese products were using the Napa name.
Getting more countries to extend GI status is as difficult as getting those countries to enforce that status. Still, Rex relates that the fight has expanded into the world of the internet. Napa based names are exploding, including new sites in countries far removed from Napa. The NVV has petitioned the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to ensure safeguards against abuse of the Napa name in the procuring of domain names. Rex monitors the internet world for examples of abuse of the name.
If you want to be known for quality products, you have to protect the consumers from inferior imitations. Rex and the NVV have a huge job that seems to be non-stop.