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FROM THE EDITOR It’s Not Champagne In 1933, after the repeal of Prohibition, Americans knew very little about wine. After fourteen years of “bathtub gin” and other ques- tionable potables, the memory of good wine and its terminology had faded almost to the point of disappearing. How was the domestic wine industry, struggling to gain a foothold in the new beverage market, going to identify and sell to an essentially clueless populace? Wine marketers decided to use words that people might remem- ber and understand: “Burgundy,” “Chablis,” “Chianti,” “Sauterne [sic],” and “Champagne.” What did it matter that wines identified this way bore little more than superficial resemblance to the real wines that were entitled to these names. Local “Chablis” was usually made from Colombard and/or Thompson Seedless; “Burgundy” was mostly Zinfandel. Today, 77 years since repeal, many Americans have become wine lovers. In the last forty years or so, many have become wine experts and have developed an appreciation for wines from growing regions all over the globe. I would suggest that American wine drinkers are among the most knowledgeable in the world . . . and the base of wine usage is growing—more and more people are drinking wine. Sometime in the very near future the United States is projected to become the world’s largest consumer of wine. So then why does the use of inappropriate place names on some domestic wine persist? What prompts my question is the fact that Australia has recently signed an agreement with the European Union that bans the use of “Champagne,” “Port,” and “Sherry” as well as the other names above from all Australian wines. Here, in a land so proud of its own heritage, more than half of the sparkling wine sold is mislabeled “Champagne,” a blatant and intentional pilferage of a place name that is French. It’s time to put an end to this practice. The companies who persist in using the term are not only stealing, they are showing a cynical disrespect for their customers. Cut it out! If you agree with me, you can sign the petition at You can also boycott producers that misappropriate the term. Maybe the recreants will get the message. / the tasting panel / november 2010 PHOTO: CATHY TWIGG-BLUMEL

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