May It Please the Court® A Weblog of Legal News & Observations
Quote of the Day - There are three intolerable things in life - cold coffee, lukewarm champagne, and overexcited women. - Orson Welles

If Napa Means Napa, Why Doesn’t Burgundy Mean Burgundy?

As I wrote a few months ago, the California Court of Appeal upheld a state labeling law that says the names of places mean something and if you want to use the name of that place in your wine's name, then the bulk of the grapes have to come from that place. So if you put Napa on your label, your grapes have to be grown in Napa. Makes sense to me since I'm a believer in truth in advertising. The same does not hold true, however, for Champagne, Burgundy, Chianti, or for that matter Parmesan cheese (and don't try and convince me that stuff in the cardboard tube is "Parmesan").

To most of the world excluding the United States, these geographic designations have legal meaning. Why don’t we follow suit? It is bound up in a mess of international agreements and treaties that affect not only wine, but also cheese, beer and other food products as well. One plausible historical explanation is that earlier in this country’s history, it made sense for immigrants to name their new creations made here in the New World after the products that they were trying to replicate from their home countries.

Smart marketing indeed.

In our current era of internationalism, though, I suggest it is time for the U.S. to fall in line with the rest of the world and respect these “semi-generic” geographical names, and I'm not the only one: a group of American and international vintners agrees. After all, I’m guessing that we’re the only ones that think of these designations as “semi-generic.”

I want my parmesan from Italy, my port from Portugal, and my Champagne from France.

Podcast 

Posted by Michel J. Ayer on Thursday, August 04, 2005


MIPTC Home | View Weblog Archive

Back to top.