The case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union: Under certain conditions, a winemaker can indicate his wine-growing estate in the labeling of his wine, even if the process of grape cultivation and pressing took place on another winemaker’s estate 

In its judgment case no. C-354/22 dated November 23, 2023 the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU“) has ruled that a winemaker may indicate his wine-growing estate in the labeling of his wine, even if the process of grape cultivation and grape pressing took place on the wine-growing estate of another winemaker.

In the case at hand, the request for a preliminary ruling was submitted to the CJEU by the German Federal Administrative Court specifically concerning the interpretation of Article 54(1) of Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/33 of 17 October 2018 supplementing Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards applications for protection of designations of origin, geographical indications and traditional terms in the wine sector, the objection procedure, restrictions of use, amendments to product specifications, cancellation of protection, and labelling and presentation (OJ 2019 L 9, p. 2), as amended by Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/1375 of 11 June 2021 (OJ 2021 L 297, p. 16) (“Delegated Regulation 2019/33“).

Respective dispute unfolded between the Land of Rhineland-Palatinate (“Land“) and a German winemaker regarding the labeling of the winemaker’s wine from the Moselle region. The winemaker cultivated grapes in his own vineyards and partially in leased vineyards, including leased vineyard located approximately 70 kilometers away from his wine-growing estate. The vines in the leased vineyard were cultivated by its owner (i.e., another winemaker), according to the terms of the lease agreement and following instructions, and oenological practices of the winemaker lessee. The lease agreement also included the lease of the wine press, which was exclusively available to the winemaker lessee for a period of 24 hours after the harvest. After the grape harvest, the pressing of the grapes took place in the leased vineyard, and the winemaker lessee afterwords transported the must to his facility, where he continued with the wine processing according to his oenological standards. When labeling such wine, the winemaker used the contested terms “Weingut” (eng. vineyard estate) and “Gutsabfüllung” (eng. bottled at the estate). The Land argued wine which was produced in the above-described manner could not be labeled with terms as “Weingut” and “Gutsabfüllung” since production of such wine was not independent. The winemaker filed a lawsuit in a German administrative court, seeking a declaration that he was entitled to use the indications such as “Weingut” and “Gutsabfüllung”. At the first instance the administrative court ruled in favor of the winemaker, however the Land appealed the decision to the higher administrative court, which overturned the judgment and rejected the winemaker’s lawsuit entirely. The winemaker then appealed to the Federal Administrative Court, which subsequently submitted a question for a preliminary ruling to the CJEU.

In connection with the described factual situation and the questions raised for preliminary ruling by German Federal Administrative Court, the CJEU has ruled that second subparagraph of Article 54(1) of Delegated Regulation 2019/33 should be interpreted in a such a manner that the production of wine is deemed to take place entirely on the wine-growing estate (by which the product is named), even if the grapes were harvested and pressed in leased vineyard, provided that such a press is for a shorter period exclusively available only to the winemaker lessee. In addition, it is essential that during the grape pressing process the winemaker lessee assumes actual management, close and continuous supervision and responsibility for such operation. 

Additionally, the CJEU concluded that second subparagraph of Article 54(1) of Delegated Regulation 2019/33 should be interpreted to mean that the production of wine is considered to have taken place entirely on the wine-growing estate (by which the product is named), even if the pressing is carried out by employees of wine-growing estate of another winemaker. The condition for this is that the winemaker lessee effectively leads the pressing process, maintains constant control, and assumes responsibility for such a task.

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