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Oz to stop naming wines 'tokay', 'sherry' and 'port'

Australia is searching for names to replace ‘tokay’, ‘sherry’, and ‘port’ on its fortified wines.

In a move that gives the names up to their European origins, Australia's fortified wine industry is to undertake research into alternatives, supported by a $500,000 grant from the Federal government. The Muscat of Rutherglen group will be responsible for implementing the project on behalf of the Australian wine industry. It has been chosen because of the association’s dedicated fortified focus and the importance of such wines to Rutherglen.

Chairman of the group, Colin Campbell, told ThirtyFifty that the first step will be to list the attributes of the current names and try to come up with some suitable alternatives, before test-marketing them with consumers and the trade both at home and abroad. However, Colin believes the changes could cost producers as much as $900,000, since the grant doesn’t cover the marketing of the new names or changing labels.

‘Port’ and ‘sherry’ have been on the list for changing for some time, according to Colin, but it seems likely that Australia will sign an agreement with the EU next year saying it will stop using the names within 12 months. ‘Tokay’ has already been eliminated by Australia for wines going to the EU, as was agreed when Hungary joined the European Community, and is being phased out over a 10-year period throughout the rest of the world.

Fortified wine is an important part of Australia’s wine industry, which is why it is key that the new names are easily understood by consumers. Colin explained that Australian port and sherry are big volume lines to countries like the US, and while tokay is small production, it is important because of the quality. ‘It is one of Australia’s iconic wines,’ he said.

‘The trouble with tokay wines is that they are not like a Shiraz or a Riesling. Tokay has four classifications – Rutherglen Tokay, Classic Rutherglen Tokay, Grand Rutherglen Tokay and Rare Rutherglen Tokay,’ he explained. So trying to get the differences across via new names and labels will be challenging.

Colin said that so far there weren’t any hot favourites on the board and he even admitted that, ‘In the past we ran a competition but we got hardly anything out of it to give us heart.’ So the group will set out with a clean sheet when it starts on the project in the next couple of weeks.