Belgian Customs Agency Destroys Shipment of American Sparkling Wine Mislabeled ''Champagne''
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WASHINGTON--(Business Wire)--Office of Champagne, USA announced today that Belgian Customs authorities seized and destroyed a shipment of over 3,200 bottles of Andre sparkling wine. The shipment was seized at the port of Anvers, Belgium, on Tuesday. It is the latest in a series of seizures in the last four years, representing important quantities of bottles. The bottles of Gallo's Andre sparkling wine with references to "California Champagne" and "Andre Champagne Cellars" are in direct violation of export laws in numerous countries that protect the place names of wine regions. Under EU law, use of the word Champagne on wine labels is intended exclusively for wines produced in the Champagne region of France under the strict regulations of the region's Appellation of Controlled Origin (AOC). These laws ensure that consumers are not misled by falsely labeled bottles. As a result, any U.S. product that misuses the Champagne name and seeks to enter an export market that protects consumers from misleading labels is considered counterfeit. To avoid greater legal liabilities and legal procedures, the owner of the merchandise agreed to abandon it for immediate destruction. In a press conference today in Brussels, representatives from the Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), Belgian Customs and the World Customs Organization released a video documenting the destruction (www.flow-films.com/materials/champagne.wmv). Leaders of the CIVC, the regulatory body of the Champagne appellation, highlighted the importance of protecting the Champagne name around the world and the serious legal and economic implications for those who violate EU and international laws. "Since the passage and implementation of more rigorous legislation, customs agents and border patrols throughout Europe have seized and destroyed thousands of bottles in the last four years illegally bearing the Champagne name, including product from the United States, Argentina, Russia, Armenia, Brazil and Ethiopia," said Bruno Paillard, Champagne producer and representative of the CIVC. CIVC General Director Jean-Luc Barbier expressed satisfaction with the seizure and congratulated the Belgian authorities for their vigilance. "The Belgian border authorities have shown great competence and impressive effectiveness in stopping numerous shipments of wines seeking to counterfeit the Champagne appellation's name." The bottles were seized as part of Belgium's anti-counterfeit operations in place at the Anvers port. Michel Danet, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization, noted that seizures such as these are central to the ongoing battle to halt the trade and traffic of counterfeit goods worldwide. He highlighted the need for all to be vigilant, as counterfeit goods now impact enormous sectors of the world economy including pharmaceuticals, safety devices, and foodstuffs that seek to benefit illegally from the use of geographic indications. "The continued destruction of shipments of American sparkling wine seeking access to the European market also highlights the broader issue of name protection in the United States. While the global wine market moves towards greater protection of products original to a specific region, the U.S. government and some sectors of the American wine industry insist on continuing to mislead consumers." said Office of Champagne, USA Director Sharon J. Castillo. "While international wine growing place names such as Napa Valley are increasingly protected in Europe, our government refuses to afford that same legal protection to European products in our country. More importantly, it is disingenuous for some American producers to use a legal loophole to masquerade as Champagne and mislead the public," said Ms. Castillo. Last May, Napa Valley became the first U.S. region to be granted Geographic Indication status by the European Union. Across the globe, consumers agree that a wine label should accurately reflect the content of the bottle. In the United States - a country that prides itself with truth-in-labeling and consumer rights - this is no different. A poll of wine drinkers conducted in November 2006 by Fairbank, Maslin, & Associates revealed that an overwhelming majority of American wine consumers - 80% - want policymakers to correct the problem of misleading wine labels. Equally, 81% believe that wines should only be allowed to use a specific geographic location on their labels if they are actually made in that location. Champagne, along with 12 other wine regions from around the world, is an original signatory of the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin (www.protectplace.com). The signatories include seven U.S. regions - Napa Valley, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Oregon, Walla Walla, Willamette, and Washington State. The Declaration is a set of principles aimed at protecting consumers by advocating truth-in-labeling worldwide. About Office of Champagne, USA Office of Champagne, USA is the official U.S. representative of the Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), a trade association which represents the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France. The Office works to educate U.S. consumers about the uniqueness of the wines of Champagne and expand their understanding of the need to protect the Champagne name. For more information, visit us online at www.champagne.us. Office of Champagne, USA Sharon J. Castillo, 202-777-3526 Copyright Business Wire 2008