A Glass By Any Other Name...

Rising demand in India and China has sparked fears that the world could experience a drastic champagne shortage in the near future. Some say hoarding vineyard owners are to blame (the damn kulaks!)—they currently keep back about 100 million bottles for their retirement funds. But evidence points to a more likely culprit: the French government. In order to plant more champagne grapes, vineyards have to obtain authorization, which can take 10 years.

Global sales have risen from 287 million bottles in 2002 to 321 million in 2006. They are likely to reach 330 million this year, with exports to Russia growing by 39 percent, to China by 50 percent and to India by 125 percent. But only 32,600 hectares of vineyards are authorised to produce the black grapes for champagne.

Experts say that the maximum number of bottles to be wrung out of the land is 350 million – and many even doubt whether this can be attained. They say that the region’s grapes are already being pushed to the limit as owners await official approval to plant more vines in 2017.

Of course, one solution is to just buy the same product with a different name. Since 1990, an E.U. law has forbidden any wine producer not from the Champagne region in France from using the name for their goods (and it tries hard to insist its trading partners abide by the rule). After all, if consumers can’t be trusted to tell French champagne from trashy foreign stuff, they obviously need the government to help them. Perhaps what we’re really facing is a semantics shortage.

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  • edna||

    After all, if consumers can't be trusted to tell French champagne from trashy foreign stuff, they obviously need the government to help them.

    so label fraud is ok and ought to be beyond the pale of regulation? sorry, that's too much for this libertarian.

  • crap-action-jackson||

  • shecky||

    Shortage of champagne!?!? Who will think about the children!

  • ||

    And as we have heard also, there will be a Tequila shortage due to ethanol subsidies. And beer is going to go up about $2/six pack for the same reason. Farmers are switching from barely and hops to corn for ethanol.

  • ||

    Cesar,

    Clearly what we need are booze subsidies.

  • ||

    French wine is overpriced. It's a bad value.

    You aren't going to get anything out of a $50 French SHAM-PAHN-YUH that you can't get from a $24 Napa bubbly.

    SHAM-PAHN-YUH can only be called SHAM-PAHN-YUH if it comes from the FRAHNGE RE-ZHONE of... SHAM-PAHN-YUH.

    Screw that.

  • ||

    At almost every party I've been to, the drink referred to as "champagne" was actually sparkling wine. My friends must be a pool of frauds. I think if the "champagne" indicates it is made in Spain, the discerning buyer will be aware it is really "fake" champagne in that is not from France. Imitation, flattery, etc.

    Do you refer to that thing on your desk with optical drives, a hard disk, motherboard, RAM, and a video card as a PC? It better be made by IBM in the United States, else you are a lying bastardo.

  • Episiarch||

    Just buy Cava from Catalonia in Spain and screw the Frog government. Problem solved.

  • ||


    Do you refer to that thing on your desk with optical drives, a hard disk, motherboard, RAM, and a video card as a PC?


    And its facial tissues, not "kleenex" unless it is Kimberly-Clark's Kleenex Brand facial tissues

  • ||

    Interesting fact: The US never signed the treaty prohibiting the use of the "Champagne" name, because at the time we were under Prohibition.

  • ||

    "After all, if consumers can't be trusted to tell French champagne from trashy foreign stuff, they obviously need the government to help them."

    so label fraud is ok and ought to be beyond the pale of regulation? sorry, that's too much for this libertarian.

    Non, non, edna! You do not understan.

    See, for ze purposes of most people, who are not le booze snobs, all ze fizzy stuff is considered ze "champagne." But ze government francais only permits the fizzy champagne from ze province of Champagne to be called "le champagne."

    It is like an account in a book by la Madame Virginia Postrel: A maker of ze frozen pizzas once made a pesto pizza that did not contain le tomato sauce. But ze US government definition of "le pizza" specified that eet contained ze tomatoes. So ze pizza maker had to gratuitously add ze tomatoes to ze pesto pizza in order to be allowed to sell heez product under ze name "pizza."

    Eet eez a case of the government regulations' requirements being more stringent than what the consumers zemselves require. You see now, no?

  • ||

    Bergamot,

    That's my understanding. Each time we drink a misnamed California wine, we are defying our French overlords.

  • ||

    After all, if consumers can't be trusted to tell French champagne from trashy foreign stuff, they obviously need the government to help them.

    so label fraud is ok and ought to be beyond the pale of regulation? sorry, that's too much for this libertarian.



    See, this is the difference between the U.S. and Europe.

    The U.S. tries to regulate morality.

    Europe tries to regulate being a pompous ass.

  • ||

    Interesting fact: The US never signed the treaty prohibiting the use of the "Champagne" name, because at the time we were under Prohibition.

    Actually, that's not the reason. It's because Congress never ratified the Treaty of Versailles*. I doubt Prohibition was the reason behind that.

    * Yes, the Treaty of Versailles is why only French and some American sparkling wines are called champagne.

  • thoreau||

    I guess it comes down to the difference between official usage (and trademarks? maybe?) vs. colloquial usage. If buyers refer to "sparkling wine" as "champagne", regardless of where it's made, then it's hard to claim that there's any fraud going on if the label says "champagne."

    OTOH, if the label said "made in the Champagne region of France" but it was actually made elsewhere, yeah, that would be fraud.

    I photocopied something today. I said I was going to Xerox it. I have no idea if the machine was actually made by Xerox.

  • ||

    Mo,

    Yeah, now I remember. I was just listening to a Teaching Company series on WWI, and the professor mentioned that as one of the benefits to the U.S. not ratifying the treaty.

  • Syloson of Samos||

    These are known as "Appellation d'Origine" and the U.S. partakes in such as well.

  • ||

    Who wants to drink that shit anyway?

    At my paper in college, we had a yearly "Night of Paign" party, where everyone had their own bottle.

    It should have been called "Following Day of Paign"

  • ||

    For a very nice and unusual sparkling wine that is not from Champagne, try Banfi's Rosa Regale.

  • lunchstealer||

    I have given up champagne in favor of lambics (preferably Lindeman's Peche) for quite some time now. What pissed me off was when the Texas ABC banned a bunch of Belgian beers based on some form of retarded labeling arcana. They've since lifted it, but now you can't get Abbaye De Leffe on tap anymore, and I forget what I did for my New Years' toast that year.

  • ||

    So libertarians AREN'T for intellectual property? My my, the things you learn on this blog.

    (By the way, you can lose your trademark if you don't defend it vigorously enough, which is why companies act like anal asses about it--they don't really have any choice.)

  • Syloson of Samos||

    After all, if consumers can't be trusted to tell French champagne from trashy foreign stuff...

    The point of an "appellation" is the same as that of any other trademark. It in part signals to the consumer the nature of the product. At least that is my understanding of appellations.

    joe,

    There are many, many inexpensive, good French wines on the American market.

  • russell||

    For making cultural advantage Kazakhstan Mares Milk Fermentation collective offer Toast Of Tuva sparkling koumiss with cork tighter than wizards sleeve. richer in potassium over French raisins beverage.

  • Plant Immigration Rights Suppo||

    Grumpy realist,

    Champagne is a region, not a person, not a company but a region. And whoever it was who came up with the idea is now dead. Should we only call a frankfurter a frankfurter if it is from Frankfurt? How about viena sausages? Should it be illegal to call a BBQ mongolian if it was not made in Mongolia?

  • ||

    1) they predicted the same thing for Y2K.

    2) California makes tasty Sparkling.

  • ||

    I remember drinking bottled water once in front of a Brit. She was horrified that I would have paid money to get it shipped from the Alps to the US when the tap water here was fine.

    Me: "Why do you think it's from the alps?"
    Her: "It says right on the label, 'alpine water.'"
    Me: "Oh. We're in America. That just means 'water of indeterminant origin'."

  • TallDave||

    Perhaps what we're really facing is a semantics shortage.

    Hey! Don't give them ideas! Before you can say "tomahto" we'll get a half-dozen government programs to supply semantics to the needy (headquartered in the disticts of senior Congressional leaders, natch).

  • Baylen||

    Party like a rock star with Gruet, made by real French expats in New Mexico. The best $10 any chap thirsty for bubbly can spend.

  • ||

    I photocopied something today. I said I was going to Xerox it. I have no idea if the machine was actually made by Xerox.

    Xerox, and other companies, usually try to fight this kind of usage to prevent their trademark from becoming generic. Many former trademarks have disappeared by becoming synonymous with the products themselves, such as escalator, linoleum, thermos, aspirin, heroin... yes, heroin. Though these last two trademarks, speaking of the Treaty of Versailles, were lost by German pharmaceutical company Bayer at the end of WWI. Before that Heroin was a brand name and, interestingly, "was marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough medicine for children."

  • edna||

    You see now, no?

    non, je ne comprends pas.

    if i buy a bottle of tuscan olive oil, it ought to be from tuscany, independent of the question of whether or not there are other regions which produce fine oils. if i buy a bottle of bordeaux, i expect that it came from bordeaux, independent of the the question of whether or not there are other fine red cabernet/merlot/petit verdot blends made elsewhere.

    if the oil was made in tunisia, the label's claims are fraudulent. same with the champagne, independent of whether or not cava, sekt, cerdon-bugey, cremant de bourgogne, clairette de die et al are delicious and better priced.

  • edna||

    btw, the canned san marzano tomatoes that actually come from new jersey are bloody awful.

  • ||

    Holy mother of God!!


    what?

    oops

    I thought it said, "Champale."

    My world was crashing down.

  • ||

    if i buy a bottle of tuscan olive oil, it ought to be from tuscany, independent of the question of whether or not there are other regions which produce fine oils.

    What if you buy a loaf of French bread? Or some Polish (or German?) sausage? Canadian bacon?

  • Syloson of Samos||

    Brian courts,

    Regional classifications for sausage do exist (indeed, they are common throughout Europe).

    If I buy a loaf of French bread I generally assume that it isn't from France. If I buy a bottle of "Augusta" wine I can be reasonably sure that it is from a winery in the Augusta region of Missouri.

  • Plant Immigration Rights Suppo||

    Edna, should a bath only be called such if it is from Bath?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath%2C_England

  • ||

    A trademarked name owned by a firm or person is one theeng. A "regional" name indicating the geographic origin of a certain style of product is somezing else.

    Last weekend I had some "French toast" at ze local Bob Evans restaurant for ze breakfast. I assure you, it was not manufactured or prepared in France!

    And ze "French fries"? Zey are not even originally from France! Zey are le Belgique!

  • ||

    So I wonder if I can still send away for my free sample of Bayer® Heroin™.

  • ||

    "After all, if consumers can't be trusted to tell French champagne from trashy foreign stuff, they obviously need the government to help them."

    I've argued before that it's harder to tell top o' the line champagne from mediocre champagne--harder than it is to judge between different levels of other wines.

    There was a wine merchant that used to comment here, and he was going to hold a taste test of different grades of champagne and see how well educated palates could discern the best from the rest--I wonder how that turned out?

    I suspect that most consumers really couldn't tell a French champagne from a mid-priced something else, still, I wouldn't want people drinking something inferior and think they were drinking something I made.

    For all I know, Australian and Chilean wines are the best in the world, but we wouldn't think much of them calling themselves "Napa", would we?

  • ||

    "A trademarked name owned by a firm or person is one theeng. A "regional" name indicating the geographic origin of a certain style of product is somezing else."

    No it isn't.

    We name our wines by the type of grape they come from--they name theirs by the region they come from. ...many claim their wines taste different because of where they come from.

    We have no right to diminish the brand those regions have built for themselves. ...even if they are French.

  • MattXIV||

    Regional names are often used to denote styles of products rather than the specific origin of the product. There are countless examples of this - Bologna, for example, has lent its name to both a sauce and a sausage. I probably go on all night using just examples from Italy.

    Given that champagne is generally used in the US to refer to a style of sparkling wine rather than wine explicitly derived from the Champagne region, it would be appropriate to allow sparkling wines from other regions of the same style to be labeled champagne. Wine (like most other foods and beverages) is typically marked clearly with where it was produced, so any ambiguity can quickly be eliminated by closer inspection of the bottle. To minimize the intrusiveness of nomenclature regulations, the sole consideration should be whether the specific labeling is likely to give consumers a false impression about the attributes of the product.

  • ||

    Three Cheers for Washington State produced sparkling wine!!!

  • ||

    Well, the Europeans have decided to allow regional designations, so I don't see why everyone's thinking this is so horrendous.

    And I don't see the difference between a region fighting to "keep its name" for labeling purposes and a company doing so.

    The reason why we don't make a fuss about "French bread" and "Frankfurters" is that they've ALREADY become generic and identified with a type of X, rather than the locus of manufacturing.

    I bet the Swiss would get pretty annoyed if you made a bunch of cheap, crappy watches in China and then marketed them as "Swiss watches." Because you would be impacting on the reputation of their brands (as well as trying to ride on their already-existent reputation.) You can, however, go ahead and make "Swiss cheese" without anyone saying boo--because it's already become generic.

    It's not all that difficult to understand what is going on. Just think of names as things that once they enter the generic sector, don't go back. But you can see why a region that has carefully worked on creating its image and its quality for marketing purposes isn't going to want any free-riders.

  • ||

    I understand there are sparkling wine producers in this country who eschew the word "Champagne" on their labels so as not be confused with inferior imitations of French Champagne. ...how must French producers of Champagne feel about those poor imitations?

    It just isn't fair to producers in France. They can't change their name so as not to be associated with those inferior imitations--and why should they have to?

  • ||

    "You can, however, go ahead and make "Swiss cheese" without anyone saying boo--because it's already become generic."

    I do wish they'd stop calling it "American cheese". ...can't we all just agree to call it "French cheese"?

  • MattXIV||

    grumpy,

    a) Champagne, the beverage in question, has already joined Swiss cheese and French bread in the list of regional designations that are commonly used to describe styles rather than regions as far as the US market is concerned.

    b) Producers in many of the regions in the EU are actually trying to roll back many of the common terms (look up the controversy surrounding the labeling of feta cheese). The advantages of forcing producers in other regions to abandon using the common name for a style of product in labels and ad copy are obvious.

    c) Regions do not have the level of control over their products that firms have with their branded products. Any regional institution attempting to consolidate that control should file for brand protection under the applicable laws just like anybody else.

  • edna||

    What if you buy a loaf of French bread? Or some Polish (or German?) sausage? Canadian bacon?

    you left out swiss cheese.

    but if i buy brie, it had better be from meaux or thereabouts. camembert from camembert. st-agur from st-agur. st-marcellin from st-marcellin. emmenthaler from emmenthal. otherwise, it's fraud, no matter how much you like fraudsters from wisconsin.

  • Guy Montag||

    A Glass By Any Other Name...

    I thought this was another New Republic "goof-up" story.

  • ||

    If I were representing the Champagne regions wine producers, I'd go after Miller Highlife and their slogan "The champagne of beers". I would be much more offended being lumped in with any Miller product than if you called Mad Dog 20/20 Champagne.

  • ||

    Isn't there some horrid excess of french wine? Maybe that's Bordeaux only, but I did recall last year reading about farmers selling what's normally expensive wine to gasohol people.

  • Zipper®||

    That'll be slide fastener to you, Pardner.

  • Gahan||

    Can you still call it "Russian roulette" if you play with a Smith & Wesson, or do you need to use a Soviet Nagant revolver to avoid legal problems?

  • ||

    So how do I check to see if my China White is really from China?

  • Freedom Fries||

    Boz, you probably do not need to bother. Almost everything is made in China anymore, even my Lenovo Laptop. Wouldn't really piss off the French® if you could get cheep Champagne® from China for three bucks a bottle and have it be as good or better than the Champagne® from France®?

  • edna||

    jb, there is some problem in non-classified growths in bordeaux, but the real bloodbath is in the less glamorous areas, places like languedoc and the midi.

  • edna||

    as a former consumer, i can attest that if you got durango ditchweed when you were told it was acapulco gold, bad things happened. very bad things.

  • Plant Immigration Rights Suppo||

    Grumpy,

    Here is part of the problem I see with this. I could open up a shop in Canada that produces U.S. style bacon. This bacon would be Canadian Bacon (capital "C")but it would NOT be canadian bacon (lower case "C"). If I really wanted to I could produce non-sparkly wine in the Champaign region of France. This would be Champaign wine (capital "c") but it would NOT be champaign wine (lower case "c"). And, as someone else has already posted if you really care where your wine or bacon is from you could always look at the MADE IN / HECHO EN label.

  • ||

    "Here is part of the problem I see with this. I could open up a shop in Canada that produces U.S. style bacon. This bacon would be Canadian Bacon (capital "C")but it would NOT be canadian bacon (lower case "C")."

    Speaking of canadian bacon...

    I used to work in a place that sold imported prosciutto--imported from Canada, that is. I don't know if this is still true, but it used to be you couldn't import Italian prosciutto into this country. My understanding was that something in their purity laws wouldn't allow them to use something our FDA regulations required.

    Older Italians would always laugh when we asked them if they wanted the "imported" variety (which cost more).

    "Imported from where?", they'd say.

    They said our prosciutto didn't taste like their prosciutto. ...but they did like the mozzarella balls.

  • ||

    Hate to say it, but the French gov't is doing the right thing here. I'm convinced that a shortage of champagne is the only thing keeping people from realizing what carbonated shit it is...and yes, I've had liquor store Veuve and vintage Dom. I know....you can take the guy from Florida to Nyc and back again, but his neck will still be sunburned....

  • Robert||

    So you're saying World War 1 was fought over the right to name champagne?

  • edna||

    but they did like the mozzarella balls.

    must... resist... obvious... jokes...

    here's a question- should it be ok to label a fresh mozzarella "buffala" even if it comes from a cow? after all, mozzarella was traditionally made from buffala and one could claim that the term is generic...

    can parmesan reggiano come from stevens point?

  • Matt Moore||

    Is this, finally, what peak grape looks like?

  • Gray Ghost||

    The squirrels ate a longer reply, but just want to second the recommendation for Gruet and add my support for edna's stated views on AOC labelling. Ultimately, the purpose of both AOC labels and trademark should be to lessen consumer confusion. I don't see how allowing other regions to free-ride on the Champagne mark enhances that goal.

  • ||

    French wine is overpriced. It's a bad value.



    joe,

    French Champagne is overpriced and a bad value... because all "sparkling wine" is horrible tasting swill that people buy because that is what you are supposed to do on certain occasions.

    However, I certainly beg to differ on the French wine. I enjoy hating on French products as much as the next guy, but French wines are actually much cheaper than comparable Californian wines, at least here in Canada. California wines definitly seem to be the bad value, or at least that is how the government-run monopoly booze stores decide to charge us.

    here's a question- should it be ok to label a fresh mozzarella "buffala" even if it comes from a cow? after all, mozzarella was traditionally made from buffala and one could claim that the term is generic...



    No... it should be OK to label buffala mozzarella as buffala mozzeralla, even if the buffalos are raised on a farm in Ohio. However, buffala referse to the type of milk. You can't claim cow mozzarella is buffalo mozzeralla any more than you can claim that beef is mutton.

  • ||

    oops, I forgot to close the tag on the last paragraph.

  • ||

    ...French wines are actually much cheaper than comparable Californian wines, at least here in Canada.



    The same is true in Florida. In fact if anything it is California wine that tends to be overpriced.

  • ||

    That is compared to Australian and South African wines which are every bit as good as California or French wines.

    I find French wine prices quite comparable to California here.

    But then the only time I buy wine is when they are selling off last years inventory at a discount.

  • ||

    I'm still looking for a quality cham... er... sparkling wine in a 5 liter box.

    CB

  • ||

    Oh, yeah, joshau corning is hip to the Chateau St. Michelle sparkling wine.

    First time I ever realized that they had chateaux in the Columbia River valley in Washington State.

    Good call, joshua. Brut or Extra Dry?

  • megs||

    Rex Rhino - I think there is some government meddling in the prices here in Canada. My favorite bottles of wine from Spain and Australia are $4 in the states are $11 in Ontario. The French wine seems very cheap in comparison to the price I might have paid in the states. But there is definitely something going on at the LCBO (we call it the Lick-Bo, it's the government liquor store in Ontario. We also have "The Beer Store", which sounds awesome, but it's a dismal place and you take your two-four and run home as fast as you can). There are no bottles of anything under $10. Last time I bought a sparkling wine, I ended up getting actual Champagne from Champagne because it was so close in price to an Australian Sparkling Chardonnay that I used to buy. And it was slightly better- dryer and tastier.

    In any case - why does France raise a stink about Champagne when it lets its own vinters label wine different varieties based on the grapes, when a bottle might only contain 60% of the variety? HUH? That's fraud, even though we can see on the label what grapes went into it! /mock outrage. Come on, these rules mostly make sense because it's the way It's Always Been TM, and wine drinkers are more likely to be older and snobby. I'm young and snobby, though. :P

  • ||

    I have a magnum bottle of 1976 Dom Pérignon I've been saving for a special occasion. If Ron Paul is elected President I'll bring it to the Reason celebration party.

  • ||

    megs, when I first lived in Ontario in the 60s you had to fill out an order form and had it through a window and then wait while they got your order together in a back room somewhere. Same way at the Beer Store (it was called the Brewers Retail then). Oh, and women couldn't go into bars unless they were escorted by a man.

    So you'll have to admit that drinking in Ontariario has gotten a lot more civilized.

    And the Ontario government has a long tradition of social engineering, domestic industry protection and, ahem, shall we say revenue enhancement through both markups at the LCBO and liquor taxes.

  • Current Currency Cornfusion||

    Megs, is that $11.00 Canadian or US?

  • ||

    I have a magnum bottle of 1976 Dom Pérignon I've been saving for a special occasion. If Ron Paul is elected President I'll bring it to the Reason celebration party.

    Must...not...abandon...ideals...for wine.

    Defenses...crumbling...Private Social Security accounts...looking attractive...

  • ||

    Megs, is that $11.00 Canadian or US?



    It doesn't really matter that much. It's been a long time since the Canadian dollar was $US0.62.

    It's about ninety-five cents now.

    Anyway $10.40 is a lot more that four bucks. Ah, LCBO markups and protection for the Canadian wine industry* that got past NAFTA.

    *Not as bad as the softwood timber embargo though, I'll grant.

  • ||

    Yeah. OK, well, uh, we found, uh, this mouse in a bottle of your beer, eh. Like, we was at a party and, uh, a friend of ours - a cop - had some, and he puked. And he said, uh, come here and get free beer or, uh, he'll press charges. Beauty.

  • ||

    edna:
    "but if i buy brie, it had better be from meaux or thereabouts. camembert from camembert. st-agur from st-agur. st-marcellin from st-marcellin. emmenthaler from emmenthal. otherwise, it's fraud, no matter how much you like fraudsters from wisconsin."

    If you buy a Brie that clearly says "Made in Wisconsin" thinking that you've bought Brie de Meaux, you haven't been defrauded; you've been a freaking idiot.

  • thoreau||

    It's OK, joe. Just focus on the issues where you agree with us, and let the other stuff slide.

    Pay no attention to the colloidal silver I'm about to inject in you. Oh, you might feel a little blue, but it protects you from bacteria.

  • megs||

    I have ceased to care much about the exchange rate between the US and Canada for a while now. It's so nice when it's close. But no 4 buck chuck! The other fun thing is that Colt 47 is about the same price as nice beers and wine, and bums still drink it.

    Isaac - Now I'm really relieved I only recently moved up here! It hurts enough walking by 10 corner stores and 2 supermarkets to get to a place that sells alcohol.

  • edna||

    You can't claim cow mozzarella is buffalo mozzeralla any more than you can claim that beef is mutton.

    so you'd outlaw the "egg cream" because it doesn't have egg or cream?

  • Human from Earth||

    There is a huge difference between a deliberate attempt to confuse the consumer and an innocent word play or convienient use of coloquial language. Most people who buy a Harry Potter Chocholate Frog know there is no frog in it and know it will not actually hop.

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