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EU uncorks wine deal phasing out Australian 'Champagne'

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission on Wednesday toasted a deal with Australia that aims to stop Australian vintners from using names of widely know European tipples such as Champagne or Port.

Officials from the European Union's executive arm and Australia struck the deal on Tuesday in Canberra under which Australian winemakers have to phase out the use of such names a year after the agreement comes into force.

In exchange, Australia also gained protection against the use of its place names on wines in Europe, recognition of some Australian winemaking techniques and a simplied cerification process for exports to the EU.

"This accord safeguards EU interests by establishing principles for the protection of GIs (geographical indications) and traditional expressions and protecting our wine labelling regime," EU Farm Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said.

With winemakers in Europe facing growing competition from rivals in Australia, New Zealand and the Americas, the EU is pushing for agreements from other wine producing countries on using the names of European wines.

According to the Commission, the EU imported 868 million euros (1.17 billion dollars) worth of wine from Australia last year, dwarfing European exports of 62 million euros to Australia.

The deal still needs to be formally approved by the EU's 27 member states and Australia.

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