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West Coast Wineries Concerned About .Wine Domain Names

Scott Lucas | July 8, 2014 | Story Wine and Spirits

If there's one thing that California's wineries hate, it's squatters. No, not people living in the vineyards—they can always put them to work picking grapes. It's online squatters they can't stand. A plan by the international body that controls the top-level domain names on the internet—like .com and .org—has proposed to include .wine in a long-in-the-works expansion of the available domains. But the proposal by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has caused a ferment among winery trade groups, which fear that newly-available designations could be scooped up by outside parties, either to confuse consumers or to sell back to the wineries at higher costs. (Squatting is, of course, a common problem across all domains.)

The Business Times reports today on a campaign by industry groups to block the adoption of the .wine domain, as well as its Francophone cousin .vin. According to the paper, "the regions opposed to the plan include the Napa Valley Vintners, Sonoma County Vintners, Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association, the Oregon Winegrowers Association, Willamette Valley Wineries Association, Walla Walla Wine Alliance and an East Coast representative, the Long Island Wine Council." (This time is as good as any to link to what House of Cards had to say about Long Island wines.) Those eight organizations represent 500 Napa Valley wineries, 230 Sonoma wineries, and 310 along the Central Coast, including Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.

Although Congressmembers Mike Thompson, who represent Napa and parts of Sonoma counties, and Anna Eshoo, from the South Bay, have urged the Obama administration to take up opposition to the plan, that hasn't happened. The new domain names could come into use as early as January.

It's hard to blame the wine industry too much for pushing for government-backed protectionist regulations. After all, that's what AVAs are for.

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