French make meal out of Flying Mouton row

Deborah Walton-Derry & Peter Morice

Last updated 14:20 31/01/2013

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Disputes over naming rights are nothing new to New Zealand businesses.

With the advent of the internet, marketing and legal teams will often google a brand to see what's being said about it internationally.

However, we were surprised when we learned about the recent stoush between Osawa Wines and Chateau Mouton Rothschild.

You may recall our reviews of various Osawa wines, some of which were named Flying Mouton and others Flying Sheep.

Nick Skyrme, of Osawa Wines, told us the label Flying Sheep came about because of the cumulus clouds that are usually seen floating above the vineyard and the fact that the land was previously a sheep farm.

Mouton is sheep in French and in Japan mouton is recognised as being sheep or more correctly, sheepskin.

Winemaker Rod McDonald learned to make wine in France and Osawa wines are made in French style, so for various reasons, the 2009 wines were called Flying Mouton. This soon became a major mistake.

A letter arrived from Rothschild's lawyers opposing Osawa's trademark registration with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand ( Iponz).

Osawa contested the challenge and, as Nick puts it, it seemed sensible to change all the relevant labels to Flying Sheep, while waiting to see whether the case came out in the company's favour.

Since mouton is often read as mutton in New Zealand, something that definitely doesn't have the right associations in terms of quality, changing the name became a better option.

So most of the wines were Flying Mouton in 2009 and Flying Sheep in 2010.

In November last year, Iponz found that Osawa was not infringing on any of Rothschild's trademarks and granted Osawa the right to register the Flying Mouton trademark. Rothschild has since appealed, so the Osawa team awaits further news with bated breath.

Comparing the two labels, it is blatantly obvious that there is no intention to confuse the consumer over the use of the word mouton, for the flying sheep is depicted on the wine's front label and further referenced on the back of the bottle.

The two-year legal fight is over, but the appeal has yet to run its course. We'll leave you to decide whether such a heavy-handed response was necessary.

Coniglio Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2010, $90

This very expensive chardonnay from Morton Estate is priced according to its outstanding quality. The 2010 vintage is the first produced since 2004, such is the exacting standard of fruit required for this wine.

The buttery, stonefruit aroma is particularly fragrant and has extraordinary depth.

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The palate is silky smooth with concentrated peach, nectarine and nectar-like flavours coupled with some spice. This concentrated wine is subtle, integrated and complex, and it is difficult to overstate its charms, for it comes close to perfection.

Invivo Belle Sauvignon Blanc 2012, $19.95

This low-alcohol (9 per cent) wine boasts 30 per cent fewer calories than standard sauvignon blanc and this Auckland-based company uses this fact to fine marketing advantage.

Belle is a pretty package and it tastes all right too.

The sweet, lightly fruity, zesty aroma is crisp, with some herbaceous punch.

Plenty of soft, citrusy flavour washes across the palate. It is ripe and crisp, but without mid-plate weight, which is where an extra 2 per cent alcohol would make a difference.

Invivo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012, $19.90

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We could pick the lees contact in both the aroma and palate. There is plenty of texture and that means superb palate weight.

Bright citrus flavours, subtle grassiness and some perfectly balanced tropical fruitiness make this wine a winner.

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Luxuriate in the flavours, finishing with some spice and stonefruit that will tempt you all over again.

Riverby Estate Marlborough Sali's Block Riesling 2011, $20

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Crisp acids underpin a blend of honeyed citrus and kerosene flavours in this fleshy, ripe and concentrated wine. With 18 grams of residual sugar, yet dry as a bone, this beautifully balanced wine is worth seeking out. Matawhero Gisborne Pinot Gris 2011, $25.90

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A rich, satin-textured wine, it offers fleshy stonefruit, fresh fig and guava fruitiness.

- The Marlborough Express

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