Brunello Consortium Asks California Winery to Cease and Desist

According to a press release issued yesterday by Petroni Vineyards (Sonoma, CA), the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino (Brunello di Montalcino Consortium) has asked winemaker Lorenzo Petroni to stop labeling his wine as “Brunello.”

“The name Brunello refers to the grape and not the place where it is produced,” writes Petroni in the release.

When contacted by VinoWire, a winery spokesperson said that Petroni has been producing a wine called Brunello since 1998. The winery was first contacted on December 10, 2007 by the Consortium. A second letter was received on February 10, 2008 and a third on March 18, said the spokesperson.

Other Californian wineries label wines as “Brunello” and Californian nurseries sell “Brunello” rootstock, noted the spokesperson, and it is not clear if the Consortium has contacted other companies.

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11 thoughts on “Brunello Consortium Asks California Winery to Cease and Desist

  1. The Consorzio has every right to pursue said action to the fullest extend. The EU has battled for such caused as Champagne, Chablis, and Chianti being used on labels in the United States and for Hungary to be the sole user of the word Tokaji, among others. Brunello is a local dialect name of a grape in the region of Montalcino and shame on American producers continuing to preying on the ignorance of American consumers.

  2. Knowledgeable wine drinkers will never confuse a Brunello di Montalcino from Biondi Santi or Caparzo or from boutique producers with something called “Brunello” made in Sonoma County, Calif. But nobody seems to mind when producers from the Calif. Central Coast using Barbera grapes, or Napa producers using Sangiovese. Brunello is a grape but one with an activist consortium behind it.

  3. I don’t know. As “Italophile” above points out, Brunello is a local dialect name for Sangiovese so it’s a synonym. Varietal labeling is the norm in the New World. Chablis, Champagne and Chianti are all geographic areas. They are being very clear about being from Sonoma – not Montalcino (the geographic area).

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Petroni. He, in his release, indicates that he has followed all of the laws and regulations in the United States and was legally granted this name. Who are the Italians to tell us what to do? Do we tell them how to take care of the Mafia? No, but it seems they are willing to allow the wine mafia to run ramrod over a good honest American entrepreneur.
    I say enough is enough!

  5. Cabernet came from France. Should Stag’s Leap cease and desist from using Cabernet on their bottles? That I know the Petroni vines actually came from Montalcino I would feel a little deceived if they DIDN’T say “Brunello” on the label. Honesty is the best policy after all, and they are quite honest in identifying both the grape , and the region it is grown-Sonoma. Good for Petroni in being so honest. And great wine!!!

  6. Well, one of the the responses above mentions the similar defense of such names as champagne, chablis, chianti and tokaji. These are all names pertaining to geographic areas which are used on wine labels to designate wines specifically from that region. Brunello is not a place (well it is, but it has nothing to do with Brunello wine as far as I can tell) but instead it is a specific clone of the Sangiovese grape. My personal opinion is that if you are producing wine from this particular grape then you should be able to label your wine as such. Brunello di Montalcino is Brunello from the area surrounding the town of Montalcino. Similarly, Brunello di Sonoma is Brunello from Sonoma county. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Furthermore, I think consumers are smart enough to not confuse wine from Sonoma with wine from Italy.

  7. The first thing I tried to figure out is whether I even cared about this. An acquaintance of mine made this point and I agree, Brunello is not a “wine place” in the same terms that Chablis, Champagne, etc are wine places.

    Now, in terms of copyright infringement, if I had a name or a word that I was using to identify my product and had been doing so for 10 years only to have someone come along and try to sue me, or worse, try to stop me from using that word, the case would be over before it started in any court in any land. A trademark holder has an obligation to protect his or her copyright.

    The same should apply here in this case even though it falls more under the category of what our beloved TTB calls “product integrity”. For instance, I make a port for Twisted Oak that we started producing in 2004. Since it was after the “landmark” agreement between the US and the EU, I am not allowed to have the word PORT anywhere on the bottle (we cheat and call it Pour’t…we’re clever like that). But if I had been producing said wine before the agreement, I would continue to be able to use the word PORT. This, while not the exact case as Brunello di Sonoma, would be considered a similar situation (one might even call it precedence).

    Now, whether or not I like the fact that he implies connection with a famous Italian region OR wine (which I wouldn’t, except for the fact that I make a wine called “The Spaniard), the fact of the matter is, Brunello di Sonoma is a part of dude’s business that he has worked hard to establish and is now very lucrative for him…it is even part of his company’s personality. It would be UN-AMERICAN to require him to discontinue its use!! FURTHERMORE…While calling it Brunello di Sonoma is nothing more than a marketing move, it is indeed a recognizable synonym for Sangiovese and therefore a reasonable term to expect to see on this particular wine.

    All I know is…if Spain calls and tells me I need to stop making The Spaniard, or at least give it another name, I’m gonna tell ’em they have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service.

  8. I don’t see the big deal. If I sneak into Romanee Conti, steal some vines and propogate them into a vineyard in Arkansas then I should be able to call the wine I make Romanee Conti di Arkansas. Makes perfect sense to me. In fact all the Pinot Noir producers all over the world should just be able to call their wine Burgundy di Wherever. I’ve got an idea for Petroni vineyards. Why don’t they make a wine and call it Sangiovese di Petroni and then people would know what grape it was made from and who made it instead of trying to deceive people for no apparent reason other than it is “legal” here in the good ‘ol USA.

  9. brunello is a the name of a wine made in Montalcino, the exact name is Brunelo di Montalcino and the grape used is Sangiovese Grosso. So, the name of the grape is not brunello but Sangiovese Grosso. Use the name brunello for a wine that is everything exept brunello sounds to me like a good way to make money and selling wine to people that do not know wine.
    Sangiovese Grosso is a clone of sangiovese that in hundreds of years has changed its dna and this kind of grape can grow in a right way only in Montalcino…so, probably the grape used for the “american” brunello is not a sangiovese grosso.

  10. Everything that has been written above is quite interesting, but the point is not being addressed. The crucial problem here is that Brunello di Montalcino is a DOCG and therefore protected by law. You can only make it in the Montalcino area, and are also required to follow dozens of other qualitative restrictions. Petroni producing Brunello in California? It’s like a Chinese factory calling their scooter a Harley Davidson…. And as said before, Brunello is the name of the wine, not the name of the grape (though it confusingly is also one of the local names for the varietal). The grape used to make Brunello is Sangiovese, and there are almost 90 different clones of this grape.

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