13 March, 2001

USA and EU sign deal on names

Champagne has moved a small step forwards on the long and winding road towards the global rights of the name of champagne. Last week the EU and the United States both signed an agreement, that is the climax so far after more than 20 years of talks.

Today it is only in the USA that vintners still write champagne on their labels. Now the American administration however has agreed to ask Congress to limit the usage of 17 European names of places such as Burgundy (France), Chianti (Italy), Sherry (Spain) and Tokay (Hungary).

Until now the Americans have viewed these names rather as notions of certain types of wine rather than place names.

A row of big steel tanks is certainly not very romantic. In Champagne these vats are used for the first fermentation, not for ageing.

Nobel taste from wooden chips
You get nothing in this world for free, of course. The Europeans have had to allow American wines, that has gained their fine, wooden taste from ageing in steeltanks with wooden chips added and not from oak barrels. A cheaper method of production that so far is not allowed in Europe. In the wake of the agreement Italy has asked the EU to change its legislation in order to allow usage of wooden chips.

The EU has had to acknowledge American geographic names such as Long Island and Applegate Valley. But that has probably hurt less than the wooden chips.

Each others biggest markets
USA and Europe are each others biggest export markets of wine. So far EU sells more than double to the States (two billion euros), but that may change since the import from the USA is on the rise.

As the deal was entered last autumn, it was criticized because it only covers new wines. This means, that the vintners, that all time along have sold their sparkling wines as champagne, can continue.

Talks about what the new agency AP describes as a "more ambitious" agreement will start in some months. The possible introduction of American wines with a low percentage of alcohol on the European market is amongst the subjects to be discussed,

Oldfashioned oak barrels are on the rise in Champagne. Typically to age the wines that are added after disgorging as the liqueur de tirage.

Read the American press release about the agreement.

Read more about the agreement here.

The deal includes many more products than wine and champagne. In Denmark the feta may get in trouble. In Great Britain the blue Stilton-cheese can expect protection. Read more about the effects of the deal at BBC.

På dansk

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