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A new generation of wine-centric web sites ending in .wine and .vin is in the works. But U.S. winemakers aren't exactly thrilled with the idea.

That's because the private company that awards these domain names — the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) — plans to sell them to highest bidder.

Industry groups are concerned that unaffiliated cyber squatters will gobble up all the good names, creating confusion for consumers. Presumably, these greedy poseurs will know nothing about wine. In other words, the new NapaValley.wine could have as much to do with California's famous wine-growing region as the parody site WhiteHouse.net has to do with the actual Oval Office.

In an industry where labels have very specific meanings — just try passing off a Virginia-made sparkler as "Champagne" the threat from fakes is especially worrisome.

"If granted to unscrupulous bidders, second-level domain names such as napavalley.wine or wallawalla.wine could be held in perpetuity by a company or individual that has never seen a vineyard, cultivated fine wine grapes or made a single bottle of wine," according to a statement issued last week by seven U.S. winegrowing regions.

According to an article in The Hill, California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, the top Democrat on the House’s Technology subcommittee, has called on ICANN to halt the rollout of .wine and .vin sites.

A BBC report, citing similar concerns among French officials, notes that ICANN has a system in place for industries to protect their brands by registering trademarks across the domain-name spectrum from .com to .net to .whatever. For an extra fee, of course.

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