Posts Tagged ‘méthode’

The “Office of Champagne, USA” is Now the “Champagne Bureau” – A New Name, But It’s the Same Old Message

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

I don’t know, this seems like a pretty easy one to make a call on. Do you think that sparkling wine producers in America should be allowed to use the term champagne even though their products don’t come from Champagne, France?

This issue got hashed out a half-decade ago in the favor of consumers, so terms like “American Champagne” are still allowed. But the French wine industry doesn’t like that one bit. So, they’re back with a new ad campagne. Except that this time they’re calling themselves the Champagne Bureau instead of the “Office of Champagne, USA.” (Which is sort of funny, since the old name was constructed to confuse the public, to make the public think that the French wine industry was somehow an arm of the U.S. Government, and they were, and are, complaining about the term  “American Champagne,” which is pretty straightforward…)

 Anyway, here it is, the new campaign they’re spending a bunch of money on:

Drink the Kool-Aid here, at the website of the French-backed trade group.

Oh well. Sadly, for the French, this train has left the station. Are they going to spend hundreds of millions of Euro over generations to change the way Americans think about wine? We’ll see…

Oh, and, for the record, here are the things covered under the rubric semi-generic:

“In the U.S., semi-generics are defined by law in 27 CFR 4.24. There are two types. The first type is names that can legally refer to any grape wine whatsoever. In practice, most have become associated with a given style, which is noted.

  • Burgundy – Generic red wine, for example Gallo‘s Hearty Burgundy. Named after French Burgundy.
  • Chablis – Generic white wine, named after Chablis.
  • Chianti – Generic red, named after Italy‘s Chianti.
  • Claret – Also generic red wine, named after Claret, the British term for French red Bordeaux.
  • Malaga – A sherry, named after Málaga in Spain.
  • Moselle – Generic sweet white, based on a German style produced in the Moselle River valley.
  • Rhine Wine (syn. Hock) – Generic sweet white, after Germany’s Rhine River. Hock is named after Hochheim.
  • Sauterne – White or pink, dry or sweet, named after Sauternesbut deliberately misspelt.
  • Haut Sauterne – Same as above.
  • Tokay – Generic white, named after Hungary‘s Tokaji.

“The second type of semi-generic names have restrictions on what kind of wine they can be. The legal restriction is listed first, followed by the original term.

  • AngelicaFortified wine of 18-24% alcohol, named after Los Angeles.
  • Champagne – Sparkling wine, named after France’s Champagne.
  • Marsala – Wine of 14-24% alcohol, named after Italy’s Marsala.
  • Madeira – Fortified wine of 18-24% alcohol, named after Portugal’s Madeira.
  • Port – Fortified wine, named after Portugal‘s Porto.
  • Sherry – Fortified wine of 17-24% alcohol, named after Spain‘s Sherry. = Chlopak Leonard Schechter = French Wine Industry

Saturday, October 18th, 2008 is a little outfit being promoted by Washington D.C.-area PR firm Chlopak Leonard Schechter & Associates, which does work for the confusingly-named Office of Champagne, USA. This unholy alliance is once again trying to manipulate Bay Area consumers through online advertising.

They are now pushing the Declaration to Protect Wine Place and Origin, which promotes concepts thoroughly debunked here and here.

But, there’s more trouble: 

Trouble is, the Office of Champagne USA isn’t the federal government, which permits winemakers to use the word “Champagne” on wine labels as sort of a generic term, but only as long as they note where the wine was actually made. Hence “California Champagne,” or almost as famously, “California Chablis” and “California Burgundy.”

Let’s think back to happier times, before the French hired flacks to manipulate us:


You see? French Champagne is made in France and American Champagne is made in America. Some terms have become “semi-generic” in the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Freedom Fries. Should the French wine industry have the only say in how wines made and sold in California should be labelled?

You should certainly be wary of what our European corporate overlords have to say. Don’t listen to the apologists for the troubled French wine industry, which has so much oversupply sometimes they turn wine into industrial alcohol. And does the Champagne region still have a nuclear waste dump? Yes. How’s that for terroir?

So, when the experts tell you to stock up on $100+ bottles of French Champagne, as they did last year, sit back and watch prices fall. And when they tell you to worry:

“People are really worried about the next six months when they should worry about the next 10 to 15 years,” says Charles Curtis, product management development director with Moët Hennessy USA.

You shouldn’t worry.