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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jeremy Slater

In an attempt to avert a serious trade war between the European Union and the US, the European Commission last week announced changes to a list of protected wine names. The move comes only two years after Brussels came up with its first list of names that cannot be used by New World winemakers, and was in response to several potential cases being filed with the World Trade Organization in Geneva. The Commission has now merged two categories of what it calls traditional expressions' into one. The first list included names such as chteau' and classico', while the second carried names such as vin jaune', Amarone', Amontillado' and ruby', which are associated with geographical areas. There were originally two sets of rules that allowed more traditional names for wines made in Europe and a more general list for the New World,' said a Commission official. But a lot of New World winemakers complained to the WTO and we felt we had to act pre-emptively. We believed there could be a possible trade war and the WTO would stir up trouble for our exporters.' In particular, the Commission was concerned that the US market for Italian wines, which rely on certain nomenclatures, could be badly affected. Brussels has declared that New World producers will still be allowed to brand their wines with names such as Fino' or claret' if the term is distinctive, or if the wine has built a reputation, or if the name has been used on labels for at least 10 years.