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France destroys almost 35,000 soda bottles using ‘Champagne’ name

Almost 35,000 bottles with the word ‘Champagne’ on the label have been destroyed after being seized by French customs officials and found to contravene legal protections for the country's famous sparkling wine region.

France’s Comité Champagne wine body said it has organised the destruction of 34,968 soda bottles, which it said used the name ‘Couronne Fruit Champagne’ on their labels.

Customs officials seized the bottles at the port of Le Havre in October 2021, and a Paris court judge subsequently ordered them to be destroyed for infringing on appellation rules, the Comité Champagne said. It added that the bottles originated from Haiti.

It is the second time in recent weeks that the Comité has organised the destruction of products found to breach Champagne’s protected designation of origin (PDO) status in the European Union more broadly.

More than 2,300 cans of Miller High Life were crushed in April, following their seizure at the port of Antwerp.

All products were destroyed in an environmentally responsible way, and materials would be recycled, said the Comité Champagne.

It wasn’t clear how the beer cans and soda bottles came to be shipped to EU ports, and no specific party was accused of wrongdoing by the Comité Champagne in its statements.

The group is known for stringent defence of its winemakers’ rights around the world, and it said it devotes more than €1m (£870,000) annually to protecting against the misuse of the Champagne appellation name.

‘Use of the Champagne appellation for products other than our wine is illegal and punishable,’ said Charles Goemaere, MD of the Comité Champagne, this week.

He said the trade body’s goal was to ensure that people only associate Champagne with the highly regarded sparkling wine from the eponymous French region, ‘and not a beer, a perfume, a soda, a candle or a yoghurt’.

Champagne is a protected name in more than 121 countries globally, and the Comité said it opens around 500 new files on products of all kinds each year.

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