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Wine labelling: a ruling from the EU Court of Justice that set the "precedent"

A wine-grower may indicate its own winery even if the pressing takes place elsewhere

This presupposes, however, that, for the necessary period, only the eponymous wine-grower uses the leased press and that it manages the pressing and controls it strictly and permanently

A wine-grower of the German Moselle region uses the terms “Weingut” (wine-growing estate) and “Gutsabfüllung” (bottled at the estate) for wine which it produces from grapes coming from vineyards under lease located approximately 70 km from its own holding. In accordance with a contract, the vines under lease are cultivated by their owner under the instructions of the eponymous wine-grower. At the end of the harvest, a winepress facility under lease is available exclusively, for a period of 24 hours, for the processing of the grapes coming from the vineyards under lease, in accordance with the oenological practices of the eponymous wine-grower. The latter thentransports the wine obtained to its holding.

The Land Rhineland-Palatinate takes the view that the eponymous wine-grower cannot use the indications at issue for wine made on the premises of the other wine-grower. Indeed, in order for certain indications which refer to an eponymous wine-growing holding such as “Weingut” to be used, EU legislation, requires that the grapevine product be made exclusively from grapes harvested in the vineyards exploited by that holding and that the winemaking be entirely carried out on that holding. 

Hearing the case, the German Federal Administrative Court asked the Court of Justice about that latter requirement. In the first place, the Court observes that, under EU law, the terms at issue, which aim to guarantee a superior quality, are reserved for grapevine products covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). 

It is for the Federal Administrative Court to determine whether the vineyards underlease, situated 70 km from the eponymous wine-growing holding, are covered by that holding’s PDO or PGI. Moreover, Court finds that the concept of “holding”, and therefore the use of the terms at issue, are not restricted solely to land owned by the wine-grower or situated near it. They may extend to vineyards underlease and situated elsewhere so long as the eponymous wine-grower assumes actual management, closeand continuous supervision and responsibility for the cultivation and harvesting of the grapes. Where those conditions are satisfied so far as concerns the pressing in a winepress leased for a short period from another holding and so long as that winepress is exclusively at the disposal of the eponymous winegrowing holding for the period necessary, the winemaking may be regarded as having been entirely carried out on that holding.

Furthermore, the same conditions apply where staff of the wine-growing holding which rents out the wine press carries out the pressing. That operation must be carried out in accordance with the eponymous wine-growing holding’s own requirements. The latter cannot merely rely on any instructions given by the wine-growing holding which rents out the pressing facility.

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