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France frostily foists flat fizz fear on ICANN's .wine plans

Vintners - and Steelie Neelie - whine over sour grapes

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ICANN50 Wine vendors are fighting against ICANN's plans to introduce .wine and .vin top level domain names.

During a packed government advisory meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers in London on Monday morning, France's minister for digital affairs Axelle Lemaire told delegates that her country was opposed to assigning new global top level domains (gTLDs) to wine.

She argued that such a move could threaten France's desire to "preserve the cultural diversity" in the country which has various regions well-known for their production of wine, most famously champagne.

"ICANN cannot ignore public interest," Lemaire said. "ICANN will be defending a commercial position that is only promoted and defended by some players at some other international instances."

The minister's comments received warm applause from the audience.

Brussels' unelected digital czar "Steelie" Neelie Kroes, who was also present at the high-level talks this morning, said that ICANN had to recognise that "progress on accountability is key."

She added: "You have to take account of the public interest. Dot-wine is one but others are equally important for other regions."

Lemaire urged other governments at the meeting to delay progress with .vin and .wine gTLDs. The politco added that ICANN could help end the wine row by listening to other voices and the business community.

France has also been lobbying other countries that are famed for their wine production - such as Australia and South Africa - to ask them to support French opposition to the domain name plan.

Concerns about miscreants selling fake fizz using a top-level domain suffix like .champagne is one of the main reasons why the French government has mounted such a strong opposition to ICANN's plans.

In a press conference, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade joked with reporters that "wine is serious. We all like wine."

He added in response to France's complaints about .vino and .wine: "I think that their concern about this gTLD and other gTLDs is warranted and there are mechanisms they can pursue."

Chehade said: "We all get frustrated sometimes when we don't get the conclusions we want." ®

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