Belgian authorities said Thursday they have destroyed a shipment of more than 3,000 bottles of California-made sparkling wine as part of...
BRUSSELS, Belgium — Belgian authorities said Thursday they have destroyed a shipment of more than 3,000 bottles of California-made sparkling wine as part of a New Year’s crackdown on illegally labeled Champagne.
The destruction of the U.S. bubbly highlights a global battle by European food and drink producers to protect their brands by enforcing laws that say only products made in their original regions can carry names such as Champagne, Parma ham or Danish Blue cheese.
In the European Union and in non-EU nations that recognize label-of-origin rules, Champagne can only come from the region of the same name in northern France.
” ‘Champagne’ is a protected appellation of origin which can only be attributed to wines coming from the Champagne region,” said Bruno Paillard, representing vintners from the French region.
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The EU protects hundreds of products under its rules — including British ales, German sausages and nine varieties of Portuguese honey.
Paillard said selling other wines with the Champagne label amounts to counterfeiting that cheats consumers.
Officials in the Belgian port city of Antwerp discovered the shipment of sparkling-wine bottles bearing the labels “California Champagne” and “Andre Champagne Cellars” destined for Nigeria. All 3,288 bottles were destroyed Tuesday, officials said.
In a statement, the manufacturer, California-based E. & J. Gallo Winery, said it respects European Union labeling laws and does not sell wine labeled as California Champagne in those countries.
The shipment in question belonged to a third party based in the United States that supplies cruise ships and, once informed of the problem, agreed to abandon the product for destruction, Gallo said.
Sparkling-wine makers in the United States are allowed to use the Champagne name as part of a compromise reached after years of trade negotiations with the EU. However, they are not allowed to export it under that label to countries that recognize the EU’s protection system.