In late April, Belgian customs authorities, with the help of the French Champagne Wine Interprofessional Committeeordered that 2,352 cans of Miller high life beer be destroyed when they entered the port of Antwerp. The reason? Miller high life beer cans all carry an inscription of their nickname “The champagne of beers”, and to the Comité Champagne, this qualifies as an infringement on their trademark.
Even though few would mistake Miller high life beer for the carefully crafted AOC (controlled designation of origin) wine, the Champagne industry’s legal team takes any misuse of the name seriously and they have a history of doing so.
Listen to the team at The Local discuss the ‘Champagne wars’ in this week’s episode of the Talking France podcast. Download it here or listen on the link below
“It’s the price of glory,” Roxane de Varine-Bohan, one of five lawyers at the CIVC looking after brand protection told AFP in 2021.
READ MORE: Champagne: Four founding myths of a global icon
The CIVC has been in existence since 1941, but even before its creation, the Champagne industry still took maintaining their product’s good name very seriously.
In 1891, protection for the Champagne name and wine was first codified in the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (the Treaty of Madrid) which made it so trademarks would be recognised by other nations who signed and ratified the treaty.
In 1919, recognising the Champagne trademark was even written into the Treaty of Versailles – which also dealt with some weightier topics such as thrashing out the conditions to end World War I including war reparations.
When France came up with its designation to protect special products with a label to denote its unique geographic and production heritage, the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), in 1935, Champagne was quickly recognised, just one year later. This meant that an AOC Champagne must meet certain standards, from the geographic location, type of grape used, cultivation techniques employed and more, to gain the label.
So when the CIVC came about, it carried on this legacy of ensuring that the Champagne name was only used to products that fit those requirements, particularly via lawsuits.
Their work doesn’t just concern beverages, anyone using the name Champagne to market their product – maybe to signify that it’s a high-class item or even just something of similar colour – can become a target.
In 1993, the CIVC took Yves Saint Laurent to court over its perfume “Champagne de Yves Saint Laurent”, ultimately winning the lawsuit and forcing the company to halt its sales and pay compensation, and in 2014, the industry’s lawyers sued an Australian wine critic and educator, ‘Champagne Jane’, asking that she take down her social media accounts bearing the title.
Most recently, 35,000 bottles of a Haitian soda, ‘Courrone Fruit Champagne’, were destroyed by EU customs agents in Le Havre, France for violating the copyright.
And as of 2023, thanks to the efforts of the Comité Champagne, the appellation is recognised and protected in over 121 countries.
However, the United States is one of the few places where industry lawyers have a slightly shorter reach. The United States never signed the Treaty of Versailles, and instead, it recognises the word ‘champagne’ (small C), as a generic term not fit for trademark.
For many decades, California wine producers had made their own sparkling wines with the title of ‘champagne’, and after these years of disagreement, in 2006, the EU and the US finally reached an agreement with the WTO regarding how that title should be treated moving forward. Essentially, the agreement stated that wines produced before 2006 could keep the title, but it could not be awarded to any post-2006.
According to Forbes“nearly 80 million bottles of American sparkling wine are produced and labelled with the word champagne every year”.
A representative from the CIVC, Philippe Wibrotte, told the American news site in 2018 that they had been “forced to sign this agreement”.
READ MORE: ‘The price of glory’ – Meet the Champagne industry lawyers charged with protecting the brand name
“It’s better than it was because previously, there was no protection, but it’s still a problem”, Wibrotte told Forbes.
Still American-headquartered companies, like Apple who in 2013 according to Forbes considered naming their gold iPhone “champagne-coloured”, have abandoned such projects when threatened with legal action from the CIVC.
Using ‘champagne’ in the name also largely limits US products to a domestic market, as other countries will recognise the Champagne protection – as happened with that shipment of Miller beer. The company does not export ‘the champagne of beers’ to the EU, the cans destroyed in Belgium were a private shipment that was destined for a customer in Germany.
The reason the Champagne industry cares so much about its name is simple and laid out on the Appelation’s website: “The ongoing fight against all manner of imitation attempts not only protects the Champagne designation but also consumers by guaranteeing them transparency in terms of the wines they buy and drink”.
So what is Champagne?
To be legally classed as Champagne, the sparkling wine must have been produced in the Champagne wine region of France, while following the strict rules of the appellation, which include specific planting techniques for vines, grape varieties, pressing methods, and manners of fermentation.
As Champagne is a blended wine, several grape varieties can technically be used, but the most common are the white Chardonnay, and the dark-skinned grapes: Pinot Noir and Meunier. You can have either a white or a rosé Champagne, though most are white. Four other grape varieties are permitted with the AOC, but they are increasingly rare.
For rosé Champagne – which is allowed – the same grape varieties are used, but the different colour can be obtained through two methods: macerated or blended.
“Macerated rosé Champagnes are made by leaving the musts with the skin of the grapes to macerate and colour the juice, and so-called “blended” rosé Champagnes are made by adding a still red Champagne wine to base white wines (so before the second fermentation stage)”, as the Appellation explains on its website.
#Frances #Champagne #lawyers #feared #world
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Copyright 2022 TIME.NEWS