Thursday, January 10, 2013

What's in a Name?

Cheddar. Bologna. Anaheim Pepper. Buffalo Wings. Dijon. Colby. What do these things have in common? Besides being the ingredients for a delicious lunch, these are all foods named after the place that they were first created. In fact, some cities are downright proprietary about it. Buffalo, New York lists the restaurant that first served their famous wings in 1964 on their official website. Many products are even protected legally, and cannot be named as such unless they are made in a specific area of the world.

"Gee, that's great, Jim. Thanks for making me hungry. But what does that have to do with wine?"

There is no such product or group of people as attached to a place of origin as those who make champagne. There are many sparkling wines produced worldwide, yet countries have laws in place that reserve the appellate champagne exclusively for sparkling wines from the Champagne area in France. The wine makers have several legal organizations that protect their interests, including the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne. The name champagne is legally protected by the Treaty of Madrid (signed in 1891), and again in another treaty in the 1920s.

Here in the US, we were a bit late to jump on the "ban" wagon. Other nations have respected the nomen for over a century, and the United States has only been on board for the last 7 years. Now, only those that had approval to use the term on labels before 2006 may continue to use it and only when it is accompanied by the wine's actual place of origin. The French producers even have lobbyists in the US government to protect their interests.

This leads us to the next point today- a little bit of breaking news. It's a tradition for the menu for the Presidential Inaugural Ball to be released early, and this month's selection bubbled some resentment to the surface. The chef chose an American "champagne", Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvée Champagne from California and the French lobby is très fâche.

You can read more about that in the articles below. It seems that they are not upset that a California wine was the selected winner, but rather that it was listed "Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvée Champagne- California" and not as "California Champagne."

So what is in a name? Centuries of history, a lot of politics, and a high standard.

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