Australia: From Tutankhamen’s Tomb To Source Perrier

Last Updated: 20 November 2007
Article by Technology, Media & Commercial Group

The Melbourne Technology, Media & Commercial group consists of Andrew Chalet, Sarah Caraher, Kai-Li Tan, Sarah Dolan, Michelle Dowdle, Janice Luck, Shomit Azad, Tim Lyons.

Archaeologists working on the artefacts of Tutankhamen’s tomb recently discovered the world’s oldest white wine.

As you might expect after 3,000 years, the wine jars given to the pharaoh as gifts for the after life contained only residues. Interestingly, each of the wine jars were labelled with what appear to be a year, style, vineyard, place of origin and winemaker. A typical example read, ‘Year 5. Sweet wine of the Estate of Aton of the Western River. Chief vintner Nakht’.

The problem with this method of labelling wine is that the names we give to wines blur the lines between the name of the grape variety, the method of wine making and the geographical origin. Our natural inclination before brands were commonly used was to name products after their place of origin. For example, angora wool (Ankara, Turkey), manchester for bed sheets and similar products (Manchester, UK) and damask for fine weavings (Damascus, Syria). For the same reason that we don’t demand our manchester be made in Manchester, it was natural that we should call wine ‘champagne’ or ‘madeira’ if it was made using the methods of the Champagne region or of the Madeira Islands.

The impact of commercial pressure on this method of naming has, over the last ten or twenty years, led to controversy between the European Union and Australia, and between Australian winemakers seeking to delineate the boundaries of their own regions. The response of the Australian Government has been to regulate the system further, entering into a number of treaties with the European Union and setting up the geographical indicator register which lists those names that are protected within Australia.

The 1994 Wine Agreement

The terms used by Australian winemakers when describing wine cannot overlap with certain geographical protected terms. This prohibition arises from international treaties, primarily the 1994 Wine Agreement with the European Union, and a number of successive amending treaties. The Australian Government has ratified this treaty, converting it into Australian law. The protection of particular geographical terms is a gradual process, involving several stages of restriction. Some of these restrictions include:

  • Certain words cannot be used at all by Australian winemakers unless the wine originated in those geographical indicators (for example, Beaujolais, Chianti and Madeira).
  • Some words can only be used if the wines are not exported to the European Union (for example, Chablis and Moselle).
  • Some words can only be used if the wine is not exported to Europe and the winemaking process adheres to certain strict criteria. For example, Champagne must be bottle-fermented in a bottle not exceeding five litre capacity and aged on its lees for not less than six months.

The Australian Government is currently negotiating a new agreement to replace the Wine Agreement. It is likely that more names will be protected under this agreement, due later this year.

Anatomy Of A Wine Label

The typical wine label involves a number of legal issues beyond the question of compliance with the Wine Agreement and can give rise to issues of business names, trade marks (including geographical indicators), copyright and other regulatory requirements.

  1. The name of your business, which must be a registered business or company name. This requirement is designed for the consumer’s and the government’s benefit, not for yours. It ensures all businesses can be easily identified for regulatory purposes, but does not provide any rights to protect the name against infringers. To properly protect your company or business name, it needs to be a registered trade mark.
  2. A chosen graphic or brand name may need to be protected by registering it as a trade mark. The ® symbol next to the lightening graphic and the word LIGHTENING indicates both are registered trade marks. Distinctive logos, such as the lightening symbol, brand names, colours and even distinctive bottle shapes can and should be protected as registered trade marks. There may also be copyright in the logo or any images you use for your label. Therefore, in addition to registering your logo as a trade mark, make sure that you own the copyright in your logo or images, or - at the very least - have a license to use it on your wine label.
  3. The wine style or grape variety may be protected under the 1994 Wine Agreement system, discussed earlier.
  4. The geographical indication, which indicates compliance with the register of the protected geographical names. The boundaries of each zone, region and sub-region are determined by the Geographical Indications Committee of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation. Geographical indication may not be used in a misleading manner and only if the use meets criteria.
  5. Legislation requires that certain information be put on a label with minimum standards set. Due to these minimum standards, precisely what must appear on the label varies from wine to wine. Some constants are the requirement to list alcohol content, volume of standard drinks and country of origin.

Future Trends?

With the next wine agreement likely to further limit the names we can place on Australian wine, those in privileged geographical positions may try to further secure their precious origin. The protection of valued geographical regions is a trend that extends beyond the wine industry. For example, the Australian beef industry has long used the word ‘wagyu’ to describe beef from the Wagyu breed of cattle. The term ‘wa gyu’ literally means ‘Japanese cow’ or ‘Japanese beef’. Japan has asserted that only Wagyu cattle bred in Japan deserve the title and recently announced that it will reject any foreign beef labelled as ‘wagyu’.

However, there are those suggesting the trend may be moving in the opposite direction. Perrier, the mineral water brand owned by Swiss manufacturing giant Nestlé, traditionally denotes water from one particular spring in the south of France, called Perrier. Nestlé, facing labour disputes, has recently threatened to move production to another country, perhaps in eastern Europe or Asia. The French reject the idea, but Nestlé management suggest that the brand would be as powerful in any place.

Having a comprehensive understanding of industry trends and the international agreements under development will ensure that Australian winemakers not only avoid the storm before it hits, but are well placed in the market to develop and exploit their brands globally now and for many years to come.

Key Points

  • The natural inclination to describe products by their place of origin gives rise to conflicts with those who wish to protect or limit the use of the name of their geographical area. There is a trend towards those who currently reside in an area to limit and tighten their control over the use of the name of the geographical area.
  • Certain words and phrases cannot be used on wine labels under international agreements.
  • You need to know about registered company and business names, trade marks and the regulatory requirements for labelling your wine.

Phillips Fox has changed its name to DLA Phillips Fox because the firm entered into an exclusive alliance with DLA Piper, one of the largest legal services organisations in the world. We will retain our offices in every major commercial centre in Australia and New Zealand, with no operational change to your relationship with the firm. DLA Phillips Fox can now take your business one step further − by connecting you to a global network of legal experience, talent and knowledge.

This publication is intended as a first point of reference and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional advice. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to any particular circumstances and no liability will be accepted for any losses incurred by those relying solely on this publication.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.