Conflict bubbles over Swiss “Champagne”

The French are a particularly jealous bunch when it comes to the sparkling wine better known as Champagne. As Anna pointed out in this earlier post, European trade laws mandate that only sparkling wine from the French region of the same name can truthfully be labeled as “Champagne.” The French government has taken numerous steps to preserve their ownership of this name, going so far as to restrict the number of French vineyards that can operate within the Champagne region and filing numerous lawsuits against other wines that try to use it.

But lately, French efforts to restrict the Champagne brand name seem to be getting out of hand. As this article reports, the small Swiss town of Champagne, first named in the year 885, is fighting the French government to continue using the city’s name on its local wine. Apparently the city used to sell as many as 110,000 bottles of local wine using the town’s name, a quantity that fell to only 32,000 bottles last year when the Champagne name was removed from the label. That’s quite a difference.

While the whole naming controversy does seem a bit silly, I can understand the rationale. The French have cultivated a world famous brand and have profited handsomely from its popularity. The same is true of any other famous foodstuff, be it vodka from Russia, steaks from Argentina or oranges from Florida. But just how much of the popularity of a famous food brand is hype and how much is substance? Some will argue that nothing beats the “real thing,” but ultimately I think it’s a question that can only be answered by our stomachs. Some might scoff, but maybe a Swiss Champagne is equally as good as a French one? France, it’s time to grab a glass of bubbly and chill out.