Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Q1). Where does Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc come from?

If your answer was Marlborough, Hawkes Bay or indeed any part of New Zealand, then I'm afraid you'd be wrong. This particular Kiwi Cuvee, as you may imagine, is made from sauvignon blanc, but actually originates from the Loire Valley in France!

The battle of wine origin and name protection has been played out in court on many occassions over recent years, but more often than not with the French as plaintiffs. They have fought long and hard to protect famous names such as Champagne, Chablis et al, pointing to the laws of appellation d'origine as their justification.

Now, with delicious irony, an Australian tribunal has just prevented this French 'Kiwi' brand name from being registered down under, citing the obvious reason - that the name is quite simply misleading to consumers (which it clearly is). In their defence, the French argued that the word Kiwi is actually colloquial, and does not relate to a specific geographical place, which I guess is also true.

However, from my own point of view this story has it's own special significance....

Back in the 80's and 90's when I was a wine buyer I used to travel extensively in France. This was the time when 'new world' wines were still very much in their infancy, and whilst London was considered to be the 'shop window of the world' for these new discoveries, they were (and perhaps still are) largely unknown in France. By way of education, and partly out of mischief, I would sometimes travel to Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire with bottles of new world sauvignon blanc in the boot of my car (trunk to my American readers). As I poured the Chilean, New Zealand or perhaps South African sauvignon for my French suppliers, the reaction was unequivocal and unanimous, the wine was "rubbish" - and that is the polite translation!

It would appear therefore, that in a few short years, the story has gone full circle. The French market share has shrunk so dramatically, that in an attempt to regain lost ground, they have actually started to imitate their new world competitors.

How times change!

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