What the GI?

In today’s blog we are going to look at national and international Geographical Indicators, otherwise known as GI’s and talk about how they serve us and our wine industry here in New Zealand.  

“A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that come from a particular geographical location and which possess a quality, reputation or other characteristic linked to that location.” -IPONZ 

NZ GI wine regions

In short, it is a “brand” which helps to distinguish one place and its products from another, protecting that regions reputation/characteristic and helping consumers to buy with confidence. GI’s are something so familiar we don’t even think of them- they can be as broad as South Island or refer to somewhere specific such as Matakana. In New Zealand, The Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act was set up in 2006, bought into force in 2017 and is governed by IPONZ, New Zealand Intellectual Property Office. In New Zealand, we have GI’s for wine and spirits. In other parts of the world, GI’s are not just used for wine and spirits, but for everything ranging from Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to Khurja pottery. By having registered GI’s in New Zealand, we not only have our GI’s recognized overseas, but also have overseas GIs registered here, such as Scotch Whisky and Champagne. There are currently 19 NZ and 5 international registered GI’s (not including the three recurring) in New Zealand. 

Learn to Read Labels. Europe. « In Vino Paratus
EU GI triangle

Each country has its own specific rules around GI’s, so in 2009 when Europe decided to ……. to make trade between them and the rest of the world easier, they had to produce a system that worked with the new world but still fitted in with each of its countries old, traditional control systems. So, Europe now has 3 levels of GI’s or PDOS, Protected designations of origin (PDO) for agricultural products, foodstuffs, and wines, protected geographical indications (PGI) for agricultural products, foodstuffs and wines, and Geographical indications (GI) for spirit drinks and wines. And then each country will have its own traditional classifications and rules which fit into the three GI categories. For instance, the French GI or PDO triangle mirrors the EU, so is a perfect fit. But we must remember that each country then has its own classifications for each region. And this is where it starts to get very confusing and knowledge of each region is very helpful (I studied the regions and tasted their wines over three days for WSET level 2, and am still extremely confused). 

Definition wine, terroir, appellation, grape variety .. -
French GI Triangle

When it comes to New Zealand Gi’s and wine, it determines how we label what’s in our bottle. It means we cannot, for example, state that our wine is from Nelson if over 85% of the grapes aren’t from Nelson. We cannot state our wine is from Hawkes bay if over 15% of the grapes are from outside of the Hawkes Bay.  

Some argue that our 19 GIs are not specific enough. For instance, should Marlborough be split into Wairau and the Awatere. Remembering that if we did that, you could not put Awatere and Marlborough on the label. Is the average consumer going to recognize a wine from the Awatere or Wairau as being their favorite Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc?  

I think that when you look at how detailed some other countries GIS are, ours are very relaxed, simple to understand and follow. It only applies to wine and spirits and other than following the 85% rule, there isn’t much to it. But one can’t help but ask themselves: Are they doing enough to protect our products on a national and international level. I guess only time will tell.  


New Zealand Intellectual Property Office 


European Commission- An official website of the European Union.  



New Zealand Wine https://www.nzwine.com/en/region/geographical-indications/

In Vino Paratus http://in-vino-paratus.com/learn-to-read-labels-europe/

Amature Wine https://amateur-wine.com/definition-vin-terroir-appellation/