Friday, November 02, 2007

Reign of Terroir: Masquerading as Champagne

New Yorker readers may have noticed a recent ad from Champagne US  - not to be confused with US Champagne because, we are told, there is no such thing as US Champagne; accept no pale, sparkling imitators - Champagne can only come from France.

And Champagne US wants us to sign a petition to force American vintners to stop using the word champagne.

I love champagne. My idea of heaven includes a bottomless flute of Mumm's Purple Top, dark chocolate, and raspberries that never get that gucky, fuzzy gray mold on them. (Such mold generally occurs between point of purchase and home.)

And I definitely agree that French champagne is better.

But, truly, I don't understand what all the big fuss is about.

When I buy a bottle of Korbel to make mimosas, I know I'm not buying prime sipping stock - just something to pour orange juice into.

When I want the real deal, vive la france!

As Champagne US tells us, the difference between the real deal and faux is significant. For one thing, they follow:

... a process carefully developed and perfected over hundreds of years.

Machine-harvesting is strictly forbidden in Champagne, according to the quality regulations of the Champagne appellation.

The Champagne region’s distinctive chalky soil, cool climate, and strict regulations come together to create a unique sparkling wine impossible to duplicate anywhere else in the world. Only wines produced in the Champagne region of France can bear the Champagne name...

Strict rules... [relate] to grape growing, the authorized pruning systems, harvesting and handling conditions in Champagne, as well as the method of natural fermentation in the bottle...

Today, throughout the evolutionary process that took place in Champagne, true Champagne lies essentially in the selection of the best grapes from the region, blending the growths, the production of a unique wine with perfect limpidity and one final touch of a harmonious and sustainable sparkle

 Hmmm. I guess this must be all that appellation controlee we see on wine bottles. But, in truth, the word champagne is eponymous. I doubt that my Worcestershire sauce comes from Worcester, England. And my cheddar comes from Vermont, not Cheddar. Sure, the terroir, the hand picking, etc. may make more of a difference than cheesemaking processes. But I think that consumers "get" that, when they buy domestic champagne, it's not quite the same thing. Just like we "get" that Parmesan cheese in a cardboard can from Kraft is not quite the same as a chunk cut off a big slab from Parmigiana and grated by hand.

I think that the Champagne US guys would be better served through an ad campaign that focused on educating the consumer on the difference between here wine and there wine that they are whining about how unfair it is for the there wine guys to use "their" word.

What next, someone coming after Ernst and Julio Gallo to get them to stop using the words "hearty Burgundy" to describe the red liquid that comes in a jug?

1 comment:

Mary Schmidt said...


Another example of ego getting in the way of good marketing sense.

If we know enough to buy champagne, we usually know the difference. As you note, their marketing dollars could be better spent - promote the specialness, etc...versus throwing a public snit fit.

We customers really don't care about the whole thing. We just like the tickling bubbles...and those of us who like champagne already know that French champagne is different than "sparkling wine." (And, sorry, Champagne US, but I've had some excellent "sparkling wine" that rivals any of the French stuff I've tasted.)