Belgian Customs Agency Destroys Shipment of American Sparkling Wine Mislabeled ''Champagne''

Thu Jan 10, 2008 1:29pm EST

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

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