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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Place of origin protection puts paid to 3000 bottles of Gallo bubbly at Belgian border.

11 January, 2008
When is champagne not champagne? When its from California, Russia, Ethiopia or a throng of other countries that wantonly label their sparkling wine with the brand of all brands, which although no-one's property, is subject to stringent protection.
Imagine your finest porcelain graced with half a dozen perfectly shucked oysters and your crystal ware glinting by candle light. Time to really impress your guests and open a bottle of Walla Walla.

It doesn't quite work, does it? Champagne does the trick, it always has and it always will which is why everybody wants to use it and why it is so staunchly protected under EU law and also by the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place and Origin. The Napa Valley is also on the latter's list, as is Walla Walla, Oregon and Washington State. All of these no doubt produce perfectly acceptable wines but none quite has the lure of champagne hence the frequent violations of EU law. Gallo recently fell foul over this at the Belgian border where the consignment of 3000+ bottles was confiscated and destroyed.

In this case, it didn't help that the bottles were labelled with references to Californian Champagne but what about the more subtle approaches? Moldova has been making "champagne" for over 50 years to the Soviet Union formula that is still being followed in four plants (I hesitate to call them vineyards) within the Commonwealth of Independent States. This refreshing, sweet, mildly alcoholic fizzy grape juice could never be compared to the real thing but could it end up down the drain at the EU borders? The label says that it is "shampanskoe" and then goes on to say that it has been made in the same way as traditionally done in the Hautvilier Abbey in Champagne which might strike some connoisseurs as a bit of a liberty but is it an infringement of the law?

If anyone has any insight into this, let me know.
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