Kleenex. Xerox. Band-Aids. These were once brands names that are now used generically, to mean facial tissue, copies and adhesive bandages. But Champagne is not one of those words. Now in its fourth year, Champagne Day, set for Friday, October 25, 2013, seeks to remind the world that Champagne is not just a type of wine; it is a distinctive region in France.
“Mais non!” you say. “I have tasted Champagne from California!” Perhaps you have tasted sparkling wine, made in the same traditional method as those wines from the Champagne region of France. Perhaps it was even labeled California “Champagne.”
But only wine produced in the Champagne region of France is truly Champagne.
The Champagne region is rich in history, land and climate with strict winemaking regulations enforced throughout Europe. Located 150 kilometres (about 90 miles) to the east of Paris, the Champagne region covers about 34,000 hectares (less than 80,000 acres) but produces enough bubbly to have shipped approximately 308 million bottles worldwide in 2012.
The Champagne production zone (AOC vineyard area) is defined and delimited by the law of 22nd July 1927. Extending into the departments of the Marne (67% of plantings), Aube (23%), Aisne (9%), Haute-Marne and Seine-et-Marne, the zone is spread across 319 villages (‘crus’) of which 17 traditionally rank as ‘Grands Crus’ and 44 as ‘Premiers Crus’. Since 1927, only three grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier, have been allowed in the production of Champagne, and account for nearly all the plantings in the region. Pinot noir accounts for 39% of Champagne’s surface area, followed by Meunier (33%) and Chardonnay (28%).
Last year more than 17.7 million bottles of Champagne were shipped to the United States – the second largest export market behind the United Kingdom which imported close to 32.4 million bottles. The top Champagne exporters worldwide are Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Piper Heidsieck, Laurent Perrier, Pommery, Mumm, Nicolas Feuillatte, Lanson, Taittinger, and Perrier Jouët. The top five brands in the U.S. market are Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Perrier-Jouet, Nicolas Feuillatte, and Piper Heidsieck.
But what about wines from the United States that are labeled “Champagne?”
The name “Champagne” is legally protected in the European Union and many other countries, first by the Treaty of Madrid, which in 1891 reserved “Champagne” for the sparkling wine produced in the region of the same name and adhering to the standards defined for it as an Appellation d’origine contrôlée. The label-of-origin protection was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles, in 1919, after World War I. But the U.S., under the leadership of Woodrow Wilson at the time, didn’t sign the Treaty. Production and consumption of the bubbly and anything else containing alcohol not relegated to Holy Communion was illegal for the next 13 years.
It wasn’t until September 2005, after over 20 years of negotiations, that the United States and European Union reached a limited wine agreement signed in March 2006. In December 2006 the U.S. Congress passed legislation banning the future use of 16 wine region names, including Champagne. But the U.S. ban covered the use of “Champagne” from all new U.S.-produced wines–but not those whose labels had already been approved. Those approved to use the term on labels before 2006 may continue to use it when it is accompanied by the wine’s actual origin. But, according to the Champagne Bureau, the trade association that represents the interests of independent Champagne producers (vignerons) and Champagne Houses, this wasn’t strong enough, because it protects over 50% of the brands in the U.S. sparkling wine market who continue to use “Champagne” on their label. But that protection doesn’t extend to U.S. wines labeled “Champagne” that are exported to Europe. In January 2008, Belgium authorities destroyed a shipment of more than 3,000 bottles of California-made sparkling wine as part of a crackdown on what the EU contends is “illegally labeled.”
Some of the world’s leading wine regions are working together to raise public awareness about the importance of location to winemaking and the need to protect place names. First signed in Napa Valley, California on July 26, 2005, the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin is a set of principles aimed at educating consumers about the importance of location to winemaking. To date, 17 wine regions have signed the Declaration including
– Chianti Classico
– Napa Valley
– Paso Robles
– Sonoma County
– Walla Walla
– Western Australia
– Long Island
– Willamette Valley
Help Us Raise Public Awareness About Location Importance in Champagne
On Friday, October 25, 2013, Another Wine Blog will join the multitudes to celebrate Champagne — the tiny bubbles that are uniquely French. You can do your part too!
1. Sign an online petition designed to galvanize consumer support in protecting place names at http://Petition.Champagne.us.
2. Send in a picture/video to the Champagne Bureau for their annual contest. The entry deadline is Monday, Oct. 14 at 11:59 PM, and the winning entry will receive an iPad mini.
To enter the 2013 Champagne Day Contest, sponsored by the Champagne Bureau, USA, send an original photograph or video completing the sentence “Champagne is_______.” All entries must exclusively showcase authentic Champagne and support the sentiment expressed in the statement: “Champagne only comes from Champagne, France.” Entries that do not feature a Champagne bottle or label will be accepted as long as authentic Champagne is featured.
– Post a picture/video to Instagram, tag the Champagne Bureau, USA, and use the hashtag #ChampagneDay;
– Post a picture/video to your Facebook profile and tag yourself and the Champagne Bureau, USA, in the picture; or
– Email a picture or video to email@example.com with the subject line “Champagne Day 2013 Contest Entry”
Judging Criteria: creativity, originality, style and support of the sentiment expressed in the statement “Champagne Only Comes from Champagne.”
3. Participate in Champagne Day 2013 by joining the Champagne Bureau, USA online by blogging, tweeting, posting or sharing your thoughts about Champagne by using a #ChampagneDay hastag. You can also organize a Champagne tasting or join friends and fellow wine lovers for toasts and festivities being held at wine bars, retailers and restaurants acorss the globe. To register an event or find one near you, visit the official #ChampagneDay events page at EventBrite.
We’re not telling you to give up sparkling wines from other regions — there are plenty of good Cavas, Sekts, Prosecco, and other effervescent wines out there — just don’t call them Champagne. Because true Champagne, comes only from France.
Celebrate Your Special Someone with Luxury Chocolates from France
Speaking of things from France, we love zChocolat – The Luxury French Chocolate delivered Worldwide! They make wonderful gifts and come in a variety of price ranges and sizes. You can get a laser cut basswood box or add an engraved gold plate to a mahogany box. You can choose custom wrapping paper with a custom wax seal. You can even have your own personal picture added to the box. And each box is delivered with an enclosed card with your own personal message.
We received a box that we reviewed in 2011 that we suggested for Valentine’s Day (See Fabulous Valentine Gifts for the Wine Lover) But why wait? Just like Champagne, chocolate is perfect for almost any celebration – birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s or just to celebrate life! This year we got a seasonal box, complete with 30 pieces of handmade, scrumptiously filled dark and milk chocolate. A little book comes with the chocolate so the recipient can read about the choices before she picks one. They are small chocolates fill with a WOW of flavors. Joe says we need to start cutting each piece in half – so we can both make sure to taste every single flavor. Too late for some.
But What If You’ve ordered Late?
If you are late for a gift or not absolutely certain your gift will arrive on the appointed date, a zChocolat.com Concierge can contact your recipient by telephone on the date you specify (weekends and holidays included) to let him or her know that a very important gift is on its way from France and when this special delivery is expected to arrive. The Concierge will disclose your name and the estimated delivery date and time, but will not give away the nature or content unless you specifically request it. If you place your order too late, your personal concierge will rescue you. Most gift recipients will appreciate this service, which adds the perfect touch of style to your luxury gourmet delivery. A charge of USD 12.86 is applied for a concierge call. Concierge e-mail is free. Setting a concierge call is very easy, simply select the ”My concierge service” option located on the right of each product page and follow the instructions.
And don’t worry about your chocolates melting along the way. Your zChocolat gift is shipped in a small cooler-style box with dry ice, clearly marked “Keep Cool.” Our UPS guy even called me at work to let me know the package had arrived to make sure I picked it up while it was still cool.
Wineries are Invited to Participate
I have promised some of our Champagne benefactors a video of me sabering a bottle of champagne. If you represent a Champagne House that would like to be featured at Another Wine Blog’s Champagne Day wine tasting, please email me at WineWonkette@gmail.com and I will give you a shipping address for samples. We have wifi and a large screen so if you have related videos about your wines we would love to share it with our guests as well. We would love to feature more Champagne!