Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine

I have heard it said that only the fermented products from the grapes from the Champagne section of France can be called “champagne”. All others must call their products “sparkling wine”. But, who enforces this? Are there grape or wine police? Or, is this simply a time-honored tradition among vineyard owner/operators everywhere? What’s the SD on this?

Applicable in the EU. Enforced by EC or EFSA…not sure which. It’s a labeling law.

There are products labeled as “California Champagne.” Look at the labels here, for instance.

And here’s the story behind that.

Actually I screwed that up according to the wiki it’s basically a registered trademark under the Madrid system an 1891 treaty.
Among other countries agreeing to similar laws

It is much wider than just Champagne. Most wine regions are protected as are cheeses and other dairy. Creme Freche for instance. Not just France or even the EU. Here in Oz wine regions such as the Coonawarra are protected and have specific boundaries. Port is protected by Portugal. Fortified wines can’t be called Port unless from Portugal. Each country has its own control authority, and the legal enforcement varies. But there are cross country agreements that allow for the rules to have some teeth. If your country has protected names you wil be looking to cut a deal to have mutual respect for protected names. Here in Oz we made Port and Sherry until quite recently. No more. In order to get protection for our premium wine regions we agreed not to label fortified wines as Port or Sherry. Lots of creativity in new names. Champagne was just one of the first names to be seriously protected.
It is amusing that the city of Chedar makes little cheese and it’s name and style of cheese isn’t protected. Most other regional styles are.

If you mean crème fraîche, it’s not protected at all. Crème Fraîche d’Isigny sur Mer has AOC protection, but you can make crème fraîche anywhere.

We did this recently:

As for crème fraîche, I always found it ironic that while the literal translation of ‘crème fraîche’ is ‘fresh cream’, it is, in fact, a slightly soured cream.

This is a combination of government regulation and privately enforced intellectual property rights.

U.S. law also protects the use of the names of viticultural regions, like Sonoma and Napa.

There are entities that hold the rights to enforce these kinds of naming restrictions. In the U.S., both federal and state laws grant rights, usually in the form of certification marks.

So you have names like Idaho potatoes or Washington apples that are subject to similar restrictions.

Here’s an article that explains some of the related concepts —

Same thing with tequila. It all has to come from Tequila Mexico.

So to try and summarize this, individual nations and federations (i.e. the EU) have legislation in place to protect specific product that may or may not be produced in certain areas. There are also international treaties/laws that tend to enforce this in the rest of the world.

For example, the US TTB has specific standards for Bourbon whiskey- in particular, it has to be produced in the US, be a minimum of 51% corn, distilled to no more than 160 proof, and be aged no less than 4 years in new, charred oak barrels. If a distilled liquor meets these standards, then it’s legally Bourbon in the US. There have actually been diplomatic discussions about this kind of thing- apparently Australian distillers have called their products “Bourbon” in the past. (

So I’d imagine that in any first-world nation, they’d hammer that out pretty quick, or there will be grandfathered exceptions that the “real” product doesn’t much like, such as the cheap “Burgundy” or “Chablis” produced in California. And there’s always the “-Style” concept.

Typically though, they tend to not fight the genericized trademark type fights- the Italians aren’t going to ever be able to get rid of “Parmesan” cheese, but they can definitely slap DOP status on Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. (which leads us to really shady marketing like making “Parmesan” cheese in Argentina, and then selling it in US grocery stores as “imported Parmesan” :dubious: )

fraîche could also be translated as crisp, or lush, or new - think more “fresh” in a lively or zesty sense than in a “just out of the cow” sense. At least, that’s how I had it explained to me.

Tequila, Mexico is a town. It can be made outside of that town and still be called tequila.

A Denominación de Origen doesn’t have to be identical to an administrative area: the DO takes its name from the town, but doesn’t cover only the town. This is pretty common for DOs.

  1. Can the system be gamed? Can I say that my sparkling wine is “Exactly like champagne, but made outside the region?”

  2. Why the protection for Champagne (and things mentioned in this thread) but not others? Why can my liquor store sell “Havana Club” rum made in Puerto Rico?

American Sparkling Wine

Methode champenoise has been used for decades here.

It depends on the rules of the particular protection. You’d have to look to the specific body of law and to the breadth of the protection it gives the geographical indicator. In the United States, “comparison” advertising is much easier to do. So even with strong trademarks, you can say something like “compare this to X.”

Because not all geographical terms are automatically protected geographical indications. Someone has to first apply to a particular regulatory body for protection and make the argument that “this name historically signifies a particular kind of product whose quality and reputation is specifically associated with the geographical name in question.”

Regarding Havana Club in particular, there has been decades of litigation over the name in courts around the world between (1) Bacardi, which acquired rights in the name from the family that created the brand after they fled the Castro regime, and (2) Pernod Ricard, the French conglomerate that acquired rights from the Castro regime.

There is no specific geographical protection for rum and the name “Havana” in U.S. law. So, Pernod Ricard has had to argue: (1) that its trademark rights are from a superior origin, and (2) Bacardi’s use of the name for Puerto Rican rum constitutes a “geographically misdescriptive” trademark.

In the eyes of U.S. courts, Pernod Ricard has failed to prove that the name Havana Club is, from the perspective of U.S. consumers geographically misdescribing its origin. Also, the Cuban Embargo law prevents Pernod Ricard from enforcing in the U.S. any trademark rights it acquired from the Cuban government.

The names used are always those of a specific area. “Rum” is a type of liquor, but not a location, and that the particular rum’s name includes the word “Havana” doesn’t indicate it’s Cuban any more than someone being named Castro indicates they were born in Vigo. And which ones are protected are those whose denizens saw that their name was being used by people who had no relation to it, for articles which might not be up to the original region’s standards: that is, their brand was being both appropriated and cheapened. So, protect the brand.

Thank you for the helpful reply. I just snipped this part because it seems incredible to me. I would think that anytime you use a location name, you are stating that the product comes from that location.

If I have UltraVires’ Famous West Virginia Hot Dog, wouldn’t someone think that it came from West Virginia?

Does the law really say “no harm, no foul” because West Virginia isn’t known for its hot dogs and if a consumer buys the hot dog thinking it is from West Virginia, it doesn’t matter because the consumer wasn’t getting anything special anyways?

Perhaps I am misunderstanding the distinction.