What’s in a name? For wine, a lot

Steve Delaney
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There is a lot of geography involved in the enjoyment of wine. Even those with little background in the beverage tend to express preferences, such as liking Australian wine.

Ruffino Chianti and Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico. – Submitted photo

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union has a number of provisions affecting geographical origins and indicators that have raised concerns in a few sectors.

We will still have our Black Forest ham, but we won’t be allowed to call it by its official German name: Schwarzwaelder Schinken.

Perhaps the most affected sector will be cheese.

Current Canadian producers of products named asiago, feta, fontina, gorgonzola and munster will be entitled to use those designations going forward, but any new entrants will have to describe their products as, for example, “feta-style.”

Cheeses with names such as gouda are OK, but they can’t be combined with words that link them with a specific European location, such as “gouda of Holland.” We can say “mortadella” or “bologna,” but we won’t be allowed to use “Mortadella Bologna.” (Can you imagine if Ottawa had agreed to ban the use of “bologna”?!)

The principle being set out in this section of the agreement is associated with branding, and to some extent, consumer protection. Parma ham is an Italian product produced in a specific manner and with specific quality levels that has achieved a certain level of understanding with consumers.

It might be lucrative for a Canadian producer to use the designation of “parma ham” to cash in on this perceived level of quality, no matter whether its product bore any resemblance to the real thing.

This can fool consumers about what they are actually buying, and if low quality hams use the designation, might put the reputation of the real thing in jeopardy.

For wine drinkers, this is all old news.

In the not-so-distant past, we could find all manner of Canadian junk wines labelled with well-established European designations. I can remember drinking “Canadian Chablis” and wines where other terms such as Champagne, Chianti, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Port and Sherry were used without shame to describe products which bore little resemblance to their namesakes.

In order to let our wine products, such as ice wine, have access to European markets, we had to agree to the elimination of “Canadian Chablis” and its ilk.

Whatever the dire predictions of the effect of that decision might have been at the time, I would say that Canadian wines are relatively prosperous today. In the long run, it seems our wine industry is better off for branding for what’s in the bottle than for borrowing from another country’s reputation.

Chianti is one of those ubiquitous terms for a red wine, but it really applies to a small area within Tuscany, Italy, and wines made in a traditional manner from grapes such as the sangiovese. There are several real Chiantis available at the NLC.

Ruffino Chianti 2012 (NLC $17.48) — Good red berry aromas underpinned by some earthiness; lots of acidity in the mouth suggests this should be good as a food wine, and it did go well with our Italian sausages for supper. Score: 14.5/Good,

Ruffino Riserva Ducale, Chianti Classico 2010 (NLC $31.49) — Similar berry and earth aromas, but clearly with more depth, concentration and mature flavours; the acidity was balanced with full body; another good food wine well-suited for special occasions. Score: 16/Very Good.

Steve Delaney is a member of the Opimian Society. Email him at sdelaney@nfld.com.

Twitter: @delaneystephen.

Organizations: European Union, Opimian Society

Geographic location: Canada, Black Forest, Ottawa Tuscany Italy

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