Wine Labelling “Teran”: conflict between PDO and name of a grape variety

“Teran” is a protected designation of origin (PDO) for Slovenian wines but it is also the name of a wine grape variety used in Croatia.

For this reason Croatia, before joining the European Union, in many letters sent to the Commission had expressed its doubts about the possibility to keep using the term “teran” for the labelling of its wines given the protection already granted to the same term as Slovenian PDO.

Art. 100 of the European Regulation No. 1308/2013 determines that “ Where the name of a wine grape variety contains or consists of a protected designation of origin or a protected geographical indication, that name shall not be used for the purposes of labelling agricultural products”.

The same article, however, takes into account the existing practices in regards to labelling and gives the Commission the power to set exceptions to the above mentioned rule.

Therefore, the Croatian Republic requested the intervention of the Commission in order to find a solution allowing its wine producers to use the name of the wine grape variety “teran” for the labels of their alcoholic beverages.

After the failed attempt to accommodate Croatia and Slovenia’s positions, the Commission made use of its power and on May 19th 2017 adopted the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/1353 to allow the coexistence of the name of the PDO and of the wine grape variety as well as its use on the wines’ labels.

Slovenia appealed to this regulation complaining that this rule had been adopted with retroactive effect as from the date of the accession of Croatia to the European Union (which happened on July 1st 2013) and that, with this regulation, the Commission caused a disproportionate prejudice to the intellectual property and commercial rights of Slovenian wine producers.

And it does not end here. For the applicant, the use of the name “teran” for the wine grape variety – homonymous of the “Teran” PDO – by Croatian wine producers could have caused the risk of misleading consumers.

The European Court, regarding the complaints expressed by the applicant, stated that the Commission, even having applied art.100 (3)(2) of the European Regulation No. 1308/2013 retroactively, acted in accordance with the scheme of the European provisions, provided that a retroactive effect was imposed considering the peculiarity of the case as, on one hand, the contested regulation aimed to protect legal labelling practices existing in Croatia and, on the other, it aimed to resolve the conflict between those practices and the protection of the Slovenian PDO ‘Teran’.

The European Judge laid down rigorous rules to avoid misleading the consumer.

In particular, the name of the “Teran” wine grape variety could appear only on Croatian wine labels with the PDO “Hrvatska Istra” as long as the terms “Hrvatska Istra” and “Teran” were on the same visual filed and the name “Teran” was typed smaller than “Hrvatska Istra”.

The European Judge then dismissed the appeal of Slovenia stating that “ art.100 (3) of the European Regulation no 1308/2013 was aimed to allow exception to the monopoly of the use derived from a PDO, when there are other interests at stake, such as the interests of the wine producers who do not benefit from the PDO and the interests of consumers who have been used to see specific mentions on the labels of wine produced by these producers”.