Bottles of Bethel Heights Vineyard wine. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
In an early morning announcement that spanned time zones, the Willamette Valley Wineries Association said the valley’s wines are now protected against imposters claiming to hail from Oregon.
The region received formal recognition from the European Union of Protected Geographical Indication status, the association said in a news release. The designation provides legal protection in Europe and throughout the world against wines that fraudulently claim to be from the Willamette Valley.
“It’s a major breakthrough in global brand awareness and a milestone for the Valley’s many hardworking wine growers and winemakers," the release said. The Napa Valley is the only other American wine region carrying the distinction.
Outlining the benefits and responsibilities attached to Friday’s registration, European Union Ambassador to the United States Stavros Lambrinidis said in a statement, “The Willamette Valley name is secured throughout the EU market of 27 countries counting 450 million consumers. Any operator seeking to sell non-originating wine using the registered Oregon name, or using labelling devices to evoke ‘Willamette Valley’ in the mind of the consumer, will be stopped.”
The Willamette Valley Wineries Association has been working to gain the distinction for more than 20 years.
The recognition is "a remarkable achievement for a relatively young wine region,” said Morgen McLaughlin, executive director of the association, in a prepared statement. “The Willamette Valley’s first vines were planted in 1965 and since then several generations of growers and vintners have put their imprint on the world wine map.”