21. Oct 20

OLG Frankfurt on indication of origin for sparkling wine from Italy

Sparkling wine whose second fermentation phase occurs in Spain can still be advertised as a product that comes from Italy. That was the verdict of the Oberlandesgericht (OLG) Frankfurt – the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt – in a ruling from September 11, 2020 (Az.: 6 W 95/20).

A sparkling wine can be designated as an Italian product if the grapes were harvested and made into wine in Italy, even if the second phase of fermentation and the associated further processing involved in turning the base wine into sparking wine takes place in another country (in this case Spain). That was the verdict of the OLG Frankfurt in the expedited proceedings, which saw the court dismiss the complaint lodged by a wine producer.

While consumers must not be misled by indications of origin, it is generally not necessary for the entire production process to take place in a single country. We at the commercial law firm MTR Rechtsanwälte can report that the ECJ has already decided as much, for instance, in a case involving mushrooms from Germany.

In the case before the OLG Frankfurt, a winery had been promoting its sparkling wine as an Italian product, yet Italy was only the location where the grapes were being harvested and made into wine. The second fermentation phase and the further processing involving turning the base wine into sparkling wine was taking place in Spain. A competitor therefore concluded that promoting the product as wine from Italy was misleading and in breach of competition law.

However, the OLG Frankfurt took a different view, ruling that the use of “Italien” (Italy) as an indication of origin for the sparkling wine was accurate. The court noted that the grapes were being harvested and made into wine in Italy and that further processing in another country did not change this fact. It held that the wording “zu Wein verarbeitet” (made into wine) was not necessarily a reference to the final product.

Alternatively, the location of the second phase of fermentation (in this case Spain) could have been specified as the country of origin. The OLG Frankfurt went on to explain that the indication of origin required by EU law should cite either the county where the grapes were harvested and made into wine or the country in which the wine underwent further processing to become sparkling wine. The court ruled that it was not the intention of the legislature for all the processing to take place in a single country for an indication of the origin to be valid.

Experienced lawyers can advise on issues relating to indications of origin as well as antitrust and competition law more broadly.

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