Geographical Indications (GIs) are high quality foods, wines, spirits or beers that have certain characteristics. These are derived from their geographical place of origin and/or traditional know-how used in their production. GIs might be made in a mountain range, a valley, river or ocean. Their place of origin gives them a particular distinction. Traditional know-how may mean that the product has been made in the same way for generations or using cultural knowledge. They are a form of collective intellectual property right.
When a product is labelled a Geographical Indication, it benefits the consumer as well as producer. A GI label is a guarantee that the consumer is buying an authentic product of exceptional quality. This is especially true if the consumer is unfamiliar with the product.
Where GIs are recognised in law, no one else can call their product by the GI name. Rip offs or “passing off” - products that pretend to be a GI, but do not meet the specifications for that GI – are prohibited. This exclusivity adds value to the product, which in turn benefits the producer.
There are wider, longer-term benefits from a GI appellation. The prestige it bestows drives people to want to visit the region. They want to know more about the product, leading to site visits, tasting caves, and museums. Supporting economic activities develop to sustain local livelihoods: from industrial chemists to tourism essentials of accommodation and cycle tours. All of which gives people a reason to remain in the region.
You will already know the most famous of all GI – it's champagne! Sparkling wine may only be called Champagne if the grapes are grown and bottled in the Champagne region of France.
GIs may be produced by many or only a few.
Waterford blaa is a soft, floury white bread roll from Ireland. It is made by only four bakeries in Waterford.
Pigs reared to become Jabugo (a type of ham) must be fed on acorns and are reared on the dehesa, an ecosystem in southern and central Spain. Jabugo, specifically, comes from town of Jabugo and its neighbouring towns.
In Europe, there are GIs from all across Europe: Ireland to Romania.
Romanian specialities you might like to try include Telemea de Sibiu, sheep's milk cheese made in Transylvannia or Scrumbie de Dunăre afumată, which is shad that is caught as it migrates from the Black Sea to the Danube and then smoked.
GIs are not only from Europe. Darjeeling tea acquired GI status in 2003 in India and is also recognised as such across the European Union. China has 100 products registered as GIs, but there are GIs from Venezuela to Vietnam.
Some NZ wine varieties are already acknowledged as GIs. This was driven by the domestic wine industry in order to ensure that the quality and origins of NZ wines, such as Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, are recognised.