Salut! NZ toasts new EU Geographical Indications (and now you can have cheese too!)

Article  \  1 May 2024

As of today, 1 May 2024, New Zealand’s Geographical Indications Register has seen major expansion. A veritable smorgasbord of almost 2,000 European Geographical Indications (GI) have been registered for wines, spirits, and – for the first time – various other beverages and foods. The changes are significant to our international relationship with Europe, but they also have major practical implications at home.

To give you a taste of the change, until now there have been few European GIs registered in New Zealand: "Champagne", "Cognac" and "Scotch Whisky". Our legislation[1] specifically provided for registration of wines and spirits only. Following the signing of New Zealand’s free trade agreement with the European Union on 9 July 2023 (FTA), an additional 1,975 GIs have been added. These include well-known drinks such as "Irish Cream", "Port" and "Bayerisches Bier", cheese such as "Roquefort", "Gorgonzola" and "Gruyère", as well as various vinegars, oils, spices, meats, baked goods, and more.

What is a Geographical Indication? 

Broadly speaking, a GI is a sign used on a product that has a specific geographical origin and possesses particular qualities, characteristics, or reputation that are essentially attributable to that geographical origin. A classic example is "Champagne": a term for specific wines that embody unique know-how and terroir of the Champagne wine region in northeast France.

Since 2017, New Zealand has provided specific protection for qualifying GIs relating to wines and spirits, both local and international. Only products with the necessary qualifications were entitled to use the registered GI. New Zealand’s GI Register can be accessed here:

Now, our GI Register has a distinctly European flavour, which New Zealand traders and businesses will need to be acutely aware of.

What are the practical implications of the changes?

The changes have practical implications for producers, distributors and retailers in New Zealand, as well as importers selling into the New Zealand market.

From 1 May 2024, no person or business will be able to use EU GI terms to describe products that do not either (i) come from the specific location in the EU, or (ii) comply with the requirements of the EU GI, subject to some exceptions discussed in the 'Exceptions' section below.

Please note that it is not an exception to use a translation or transliteration of the EU GI terms, or the use of words such as "kind", "type" or "style".

Practical implications of the changes will include:

  1. New Zealand-based restaurants, cafes, supermarkets and other retailers will need to change their packaging, menus and marketing where an EU GI has been listed as an ingredient or the item is a product that (i) does not come from the specific location in the EU or (ii) does not comply with the requirements of the EU GI.

  2. Importers selling into New Zealand will need to check that their product naming does not include a term that is a protected EU GI.

  3. New Zealand Customs may detain goods at the border that are suspected of infringing the EU GIs, when requested to do so by right holders.

  4. Businesses may need to conduct marketing campaigns to educate the public on a proposed name change. There may also be new descriptive terms introduced. For example, in Australia the term "tawny" is used instead of the EU GI "port".

  5. Prior to 1 May 2024, there were only 19 GIs for New Zealand products on the New Zealand GI Register. All 19 products were wines including (but not limited to): "Nelson", "Martinborough", "Marlborough", "Gisborne", and "Gladstone". Under the FTA, the EU has agreed to provide similar protection for New Zealand-registered GIs for wines and spirits. It will be interesting to see how this will play out in practice.

  6. Start-ups in New Zealand will need to check the expanded New Zealand GI Register before launching to ensure that the term they are seeking to use in a descriptive way is not now a protected GI.

  7. Going forward, there may be a higher level of policing of the use of EU GIs in New Zealand by interested parties and owners of the GIs, and more enforcement action as a result.

Exceptions and phase-out periods

As is often the case, there are some exceptions to the rule that businesses must stop using the EU GIs by 1 May 2024.

The main exceptions are:

  • Businesses that have existing stock on 1 May 2024 may continue to sell off that stock after this date.

  • Businesses that have used the term "Gruyère" or "Parmesan" for at least 5 years prior to 1 May 2024 can continue to use these terms.  

  • There is a phase-out period for the following EU GI descriptors to give businesses time to comply with the changes:

GI Descriptor

Product Class

Phase-out period beginning 1 May 2024

Bayerisches Bier


5 years

Münchener Bier


5 years



9 years



5 years



5 years

Madeira / Madera


5 years



9 years

Sherry / Jerez / Xérès


5 years



5 years


While there is some trepidation about the significant expansion of the GI Register, there is also a great deal of excitement at its potential – including the first addition of product classes outside of wines and spirits.

At AJ Park, we have a number of specialists who deal with Geographical Indications. From advocating for GI protection, through to the enforcement of registered and reputational rights, our people have been at the forefront of GI developments for several decades. If you have any queries about the GI framework, or would like some advice on compliance with the new Register, please get in touch.


[1] Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 and Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Regulations 2017