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Friday, March 13, 2009

Wine Label War: EU vs. USA

Posted By on Fri, Mar 13, 2009 at 4:50 PM

European countries have been complaining for generations about the use of their place names, such as Burgundy and Champagne, for American wines. In Europe, only wines from a specific place can use its name, and even then often often only if the winemaker follows various other rules for the appellation.

Pursuant to a 2006 agreement between the U.S. and the E.U., the U.S. was to take steps to restrict use of the terms Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Chianti, Claret, Haut Sauterne, Hock, Madeira, Malaga, Marsala, Moselle, Port, Rhine, Sauterne, Sherry, Tokay, and retsina on American wine labels. However, the proposal had a gaping loophole: All labels approved prior to March 10, 2006, would be grandfathered in.

The E.U. recently chose not to extend a provision of that agreement allowing the use of the terms chateau, classic, clos, cream, crusted, crusting, fine, late bottled vintage, noble, ruby, superior, sur lie, tawny, vintage, and vintage character on labels of American wines, so those terms will not be permitted on wines imported to Europe after March 9, 2009. It's anyone's guess what percentage of the approximately $500 million worth of wines the U.S. exports to the E.U. annually will be affected, but most of that wine comes from California, so whatever pain ensues will be felt mostly here.

Some of our local winemakers have already taken steps to distance themselves from the dispute. Andrew Quady, for instance, changed the name of his port-style wine to Starboard when he started exporting it to Europe some years ago.

(Thanks to for the tip.)

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Robert Lauriston


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