The European Union (EU) has granted the Oregon Willamette Valley Protected Geographical Indication (BGB). That makes the Willamette Valley the second U.S. wine-producing region to achieve the coveted BGB status. Napa Valley, the first, achieved this distinction in 2007.
The PGI designation protects the use of the geographical indication indicated on a label. Consider it the EU that gives a trademark to use the term “Willamette Valley” exclusively for wine producers in that region. The BGB designation dates back to 1992 and was an outgrowth of the Stresa Convention of 1951, designed to protect the cheese’s names from counterfeit products.
According to EU rules:
BGB emphasizes the relationship between the specific geographical region and the name of the product, where a particular quality, reputation or other characteristic can be mainly attributed to its geographical origin.
For wine means e.g. BGB designation that at least 85% of the grapes used must come exclusively from the geographical area indicated on the label.
According to EU Ambassador to the United States Stavros Lambrinidis:
As a registered protected geographical indication, the Willamette Valley name is assured across the EU market in 27 countries, which number 450 million consumers. Any operator wishing to sell non-originating wine using the registered Oregon name or using labeling devices to induce ‘Willamette Valley’ in the mind of the consumer is stopped.
He added, “for the EU consumer, the PGI is the guarantee of authenticity: that each bottle meets the quality standard set by the Willamette manufacturers.” Geographical indications are the cornerstone of quality wines and spirits in the EU and agricultural products and foodstuffs.
Equally important, he noted, “manufacturers of GIs attract higher prices and secure counterfeit rights.”
The EU-BGB designation as well as other designations of geographical origin and uniqueness are open upon application to any US wine-producing region.
Willamette Valley’s PGI designation covers a nearly 20-year effort by the Willamette Valley Wineries Association (WVWA) and other state organizations in Oregon, led by Willamette Valley winery Harry Peterson-Nedry.
According to Peterson-Nedry, founder of RR and Ridgecrest Wineries:
I felt that labeling and protecting place names were principled principles of what Oregon has always been and should be. That (PGI designation) offered recognition for the priorities and principles of the pioneers and for the ongoing desire to do the right thing for consumers. The reality is that some wine producers could unfairly take on the hard, historic work that others have put in by using their wine region names and cheating both the wine industry and consumers in the long run.
WVWA strives to “promote, preserve, and promote the prestige of Oregon’s Willamette Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) and its wines.” According to Morgen McLaughlin, CEO of WVWA:
BGB recognition is a remarkable achievement for a relatively young wine region. The first vines of the Willamette Valley were planted in 1965, and since then, several generations of producers and winemakers have left their mark on the world wine list.