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China recognises that not all bubbly is Champagne

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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-05-28

Beijing said Tuesday that only sparkling wines produced in Champagne can use the name in China, giving the region's wine makers a long sought after victory in its bitter battle to stop the name from being abused.

Wine makers in France’s Champagne region have long toiled to educate consumers worldwide that not all bubbly is champagne, but here’s news they can finally drink to: China has said it will limit the champagne label to wines produced in the world-famous French region.

The new recognition comes as a major success for the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), a trade association comprised of grape growers and wine makers from the Champagne region, who have campaigned to safeguard their product from being confused with other types of sparkling wine. In other words, it isn’t champagne unless it was made in Champagne.

“This status gives wines from Champagne the most expansive and efficient protection against any kind of abuse,” the CIVC said in a statement published on Monday. The new restriction will enable the organisation to seek action against mislabelled products more effectively, it added.

The sobering fact is that Champagne has not done extremely well as of late, with global sales dipping 4.4 percent in 2012, according to the CIVC. As the market lags in several countries, including France, China has emerged as an exception to the rule.

2 million bottles sold in China in 2012

More than two million bottles were sold in the country in 2012, marking a 51.8 percent increase from the year before. While, relatively speaking, champagne sales in China do not yet compare with that of the top three markets (France, Britain and the United States), increasing demand has made it the fifth-largest consumer outside of the European Union. Which is part of the reason why China’s decision is so important. Not only does it ensure that Champagne is legally protected in a country key to the industry’s growth, but it also places pressure on markets that have been unwilling to take such steps in the past.

Champagne producers have fought in vain to get the United States, the industry’s second-largest consumer worldwide, to recognise the name as an official label. While use of “Champagne” is limited in the US, where bubblies registered after 2006 are prohibited from employing the name, there are still wine makers such as Korbel that maintain the right to market their product as “California champagne”.

“I hope that the USA and Russia, which insist on calling their sparkling wines ‘champagne' will follow China’s remarkable example,” the trade association said on Twitter.

Date created : 2013-05-28

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