Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Amendment Bill - First reading

Thursday, March 17, 2016

STUART SMITH: I would like to start by acknowledging the knowledge of the previous speaker, Kris Faafoi, of the subject but I would like to make one small correction.

Eighty-five percent of the grapes that go into making up a wine can indeed come from one geographical indicator, and 15 percent of the remaining, if the grower chooses, must come from within New Zealand.

So that still remains. But it has been changed to make it clear that the grapes cannot come from overseas if a grower wants to claim that same geographical indicator.

I want to bring a little bit of my own personal experience to this debate. I was involved with New Zealand Winegrowers prior to the registration Act in 2006 being passed. We sought to have that bill passed, and then we sought to have it not enacted really for good reasons around trade.

Trade with EU can be fraught, particularly around agricultural products, and the one card that we had to play was having the geographical indications Act not in force in law at that stage.

However, time has moved on. We are now in a position where we want that to pass through, and the wine industry wants that. I am no longer involved in it but I do note that New Zealand wine growers are present here today.

It is a very important bill. The New Zealand wine industry relies on selling on its good name, and I think one of things to bring to this debate is how the geographical indicator really is so important in selling wine.

The consumers like to know the provenance of the product they are drinking, and in fact I thought that one of the things I would talk about today is “terroir” which is the French word for the place, the geography, the soil, the climate, and the people who are involved in making the wine. So it does not really have a literal English translation.

I have heard it described in New Zealand context as the Māori word “tūrangawaewae”, a place to stand. I think that is quite appropriate in the sense that wine consumers can and do recognise styles of wine and where they come from by the taste.

A great sauvignon blanc, a chardonnay, or a pinot noir are grown all around the world, but New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a unique product, and it has a unique taste to it. That comes from the terroir.

Even though you can isolate different flavours down to a part of a vineyard, a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is quite distinctive and easily picked up by other people around the world, who know exactly what that is.

It is really important that this bill is passed so that those customers and their consumers can have confidence that when they pick up a bottle with “Marlborough” on the label, that is what it will be. Likewise with Central Otago Pinor Noir—it also has its own unique terroir, and you could also say the same for a Hawke’s Bay Syrah.

So all of those flavours are important to people and they are prepared to pay. My colleague across the House Mr Faafoi likes his Scotch whisky, and the same principal applies—allegedly. Well, he said so.

I think that all these things come back to why the wine industry is so successful.

Given that we are in the midst of a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) ratification I should mention that the reason that the wine industry is so successful and why we need these geographical indicators passed in law goes back to CER being passed when the wine industry had to face the harsh winds of competition, and it really made the wine industry fit for exporting because it had to deliver what the customers want.

Rather than just producing a wine that people had no choice but to buy—they had to buy what was available; it did not matter where it was grown—the industry then had to focus on the consumer and that is when all of our unique terroirs were actually discovered.

Rather than just being able to grow grapes they were able to grow grapes that made wines that were distinctive. So that is what led to that.

The New Zealand South Island and North Island geographical indicators, which will be an enduring part of this bill, are important because if there is a weather event and a wine company needs more grapes to actually make its wine, it can still have a geographical indicator of the South Island if all the grapes are sourced within the South Island, or New Zealand if the grapes come from the other island. So that is a really important trade point. It will be very important that that comes in with the bill.

Likewise, having a renewal of the geographical indicators every 10 years gives an opportunity to push boundaries out or pull them back in if that is required as time goes on.

It has been a great pleasure to support this bill. It has been a long time coming, and I have been waiting since 2005, I think, when we really started talking about this, until today. So it is with great pleasure that I commend this bill to the House. Thank you.