What does Champagne, Roquefort cheese, and Darjeeling tea have in common – other than a very high likelihood of being in my kitchen? They are all geographic indicators of a specific good. Or in other words, the name tells you where it came from – as in a location in the world, not just a company.
Champagne is created in the Champagne region in France, otherwise, it is sparkling wine. Roquefort cheese is a very specific cheese with specific requirements made in a region in southwest France, around the municipality of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Darjeeling is a city and a municipality in the Indian state of West Bengal, as well as a lovely black tea for any time in the day.
Geographic indicators are also a bit of an obsession for all of us at the firm. If you want to be sure to hear any of us rant non-stop for at least 15 minutes, ask us about geographical indicators in the U.S.
What gets us all riled up? The different perspectives of the power of geographic indicators. So let’s see if we can get you on our side. First, let’s give you a little bit more information about what they are, other than the fact that going to France sounds like a really good idea.
Beyond just telling you where the product came from, the idea is that the geographic region brings a certain something to the product; an added ‘something special’ because of where it came from. The qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product are due to the place of origin. Because the qualities depend on the geographical place of origin, there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production.
Let’s revisit the Roquefort cheese. It is made from raw, whole sheep’s milk from the Lacaune breed. Before it is pressed, the raw cheese is cultured with spores of the fungus penicillium roqueforti. It is then aged for at least 14 days in natural caves in the foothills of the calcareous cliffs of the Combalou mountains in the region. Aging continues outside the natural caves for at least another 90 days. The conditions found in those caves, the milk from those sheep and that particular fungus makes Roquefort cheese Roquefort and not just bleu cheese.
Geographic indicators are bolstered by the belief that place matters; that everything about a place makes it special and that special-ness comes through and is highlighted in products that come from it. The wonders found in the area can be found in the products that come from that area. Don’t believe me? Check out the difference between wines from different regions – even if they are made from the same grapes. Each have their own unique spin. Now, even if we haven’t convinced you that geographic indications are a good thing, hopefully, I convinced you to have a fun wine and cheese party. Be sure to add some great Wisconsin items!