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Friday, June 21, 2013

Champagne’s Ultra-Protected Brand Name

What’s in a name?  Lots if you’re a sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France.  The French have fought tres hard over the last twenty-five years to protect the use of the word “Champagne.”  With an army of lawyers on staff, the professional wine association of Champagne has waged war on the use of the name.  In the European Union (EU), absolutely nothing can be called Champagne unless it is a sparkling wine made in the Champagne district under strict guidelines that include the type of grape, the village in which the grapes were grown, etc.

For the last several years this French legal team has been fighting the war not just in the E.U. but have pursued campaigns globally to protect the Champagne name.  A big coup was made in Washington D.C. when American laws were forced to be changed over what wines could be called Champagne in the U.S. (only a few using the name Champagne were “grandfathered” in).  Everything else must be called sparkling wine.  The latest coup last month was in China where the French protectors-of-the-brand won the battle against the Chinese.  No wine now can be called Champagne that is made in China.

But the brand doesn’t include just wine.  It includes everything.  The militia of lawyers hired to protect the Champagne brand have battled in court everyone from perfume producers like Yves Saint Laurent (who produced a fragrance called Champagne until the cadre of brand attorneys wiped the floor with them and the fragrance seller had to change the name), to makers of lingerie in Italy (who similarly were forced to change the name of their fancy underwear). 

Those who are fortunate to be coming to Champagne with us in September will be guaranteed an intriguing day at the Champagne professional growers’ association.  We’ll hear first-hand about the many court battles that have been won, as well as what current crusades are being launched internationally to protect the use of the word Champagne.  (And, as we’ll also be taken through a professionally guided Champagne tasting, you’ll also have a great opportunity to learn about the nuances in their special wines.)

Viva la Champagne!

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