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EU awards Willamette Valley Wines PGI status

Published:  19 July, 2021

The Willamette Valley Wineries Association (WVWA) has been awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status and protection by the European Union (EU).

Only two American wine regions, Napa Valley and now the Willamette Valley, carry this distinction, which protects iconic names of agricultural products.

PGI status ensures the legal protection of Willamette Valley wines from counterfeit or imitation products and attaches a cache for EU retailers and consumers, who recognise it as a stamp of quality and assurance of provenance.

The award follows the WVWA and other Oregon statewide organisations, with leadership from Harry Peterson-Nedry  the Willamette Valley’s RR and Ridgecrest Wineries founder who started pushing for the protection of wine region names back in 2002, having been advocating for wine region name protection for almost two decades.

“I felt labelling and place name protection were principled tenets of what Oregon has always been and should be,” said Peterson-Nedry.

“It offered recognition for the pioneers’ priorities and principles, and for the ongoing desire to do the right thing for consumers. The reality is that some wine producers could unfairly appropriate the hard historical work put in by others, by using their wine region names and cheating long-term both the wine industry and consumers,” he said.

Major strides were made in 2006 via international wine trade negotiations to limit this activity, but more work is needed to ensure wine regions have the tools to protect themselves in a globalizing market, with more work promised, he added. 

“Recent use of wine in erecting trade barriers for other industries’ goods has raised again the need for addressing wine trade issues. Covering each other’s back, as this PGI protection does, is a step in the right direction.”

As a registered PGI, the Willamette Valley name is secured throughout the EU market of 27 countries counting 450 million consumers.

“Any operator seeking to sell non-originating wine using the registered Oregon name, or using labelling devices to evoke ‘Willamette Valley’ in the mind of the consumer, will be stopped,” said Stavros Lambrinidis, EU Ambassador to the US.

“For the EU consumer, the PGI is the guarantee of authenticity: that every bottle meets the quality standard set by the Willamette producers. Producers of GIs attract higher prices and secure rights against counterfeits. And while GIs are a worldwide phenomenon, notably in Asia and Latin America, it is still the EU certification that gives producers like Willamette their calling-card to key markets,” he said.  

He also encouraged other US producers to join Willamette Valley PGI: “The EU system is open to direct applications from all producers who are committed to quality and value the unique origin of their product.”

The WVWA is a nonprofit wine industry association dedicated to achieving global recognition for Oregon’s Willamette Valley as a premium Pinot noir-producing region. It has more than 230 members representing wineries, tasting rooms, and vineyards throughout the Valley.