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Champagne counts on White House contact for support

The Champagne industry is hoping for the support of George W Bush's brother-in-law to help push through vital brand protection legislation.

The CIVC (Comite Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne) and other European wine and food trade bodies are engaged in lobbying EU negotiators to ensure the phasing out of misleading use of semi-generic names like Champagne, Chablis, Sherry, Chianti, Bordeaux, Cheddar, Stilton and many others.

The practice of applying these names to US products is rife. American producers complain of the same thing happening in Europe, with names such as Bourbon used to promote imitation American whiskies.

‘There is twice as much fake ‘champagne’ sold in the US as real Champagne,’ CIVC communications director Daniel Lorson told decanter.com in London this week.

The CIVC has launched an advertising campaign in the US to convince the public of the importance of regional identity. While the US argues that some names, like Vermouth, have become generic and that sole entitlement to their use can’t be returned to anyone, it has conceded that names like Champagne should be protected. In return it wants European producers to recognise American winemaking practices such as the use of additives permitted in the US but not in Europe.

And although the relationship between French premier Jacques Chirac and President Bush is reaching unprecedented lows over the former’s refusal to endorse a US-led war in the Gulf, industry watchers are not worried about friction between the two sides in the wine debate until, on the US side, Congressional approval is sought.

‘The problem is that the proposals have to be voted on by 31 December 2003,’ Lorson said. ‘It might be very difficult if the political relationship has worsened.’

But France is hoping for the support of the US Wine Institute which lobbies energetically for regional protection. The fact that the incoming WI president Robert ‘Bobby’ Koch – who succeeds current incumbent John de Luca this July – is married to President Bush’s sister Dorothy may be significant.

‘We’re very confident,’ Lorson said. ‘The Wine Institute will lobby hard to push Congress – and Bobby Koch is in the ideal lobbying position.’

Written by Adam Lechmere13 March 2003

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