The Champagne Bureau, USA, representing the growers and houses of Champagne, recently launched a new national advertising campaign as part of a large-scale effort to reclaim its name in the U.S. marketplace. Champagne, the sparkling wine of legends, can only come from the unique region of Champagne, France, where centuries of experience with specific soils and climate have enabled the people to develop a tradition and expertise that makes all the difference. The ad campaign is designed to remind consumers of the unique role location plays in creating their wines and to tap into growing American consumer interest in geographic origin. Posing questions like “Maine Lobster from Kansas?” the ad reminds consumers of the importance of authenticity and of knowing products’ true origins.
The ad, which will appear in print, outdoor and digital formats and can be seen at www.champagne.us, highlights the gap between American consumers’ growing desire to know the true origins of their purchases and persistent legal loopholes that create confusion about where certain products actually originate. The campaign reminds consumers that Champagne only comes from Champagne, France, just as Napa Valley wines come from Napa Valley and Maine Lobster from Maine.
“More than ever before, U.S. consumers are seeking information about how and where their wine and other goods are produced,” said Sam Heitner, director of the Champagne Bureau, USA. “This campaign uses humor and well understood U.S. location based products to encourage consumers to take a moment and consider the authenticity of what they are buying. U.S. consumers are savvy and this reminds them to say ’of course not‘ when faced with products that lack authenticity and to seek out products that come from unique places like Champagne from Champagne, France, Maine lobsters from Maine and Napa Valley wines from Napa Valley, California.”
The ad highlights a legal loophole in federal law that allows a few U.S. sparkling wine producers to mislead consumers by labeling their products “Champagne” even though they do not originate from Champagne, France. In December 2006, Congress passed legislation banning the future misuse of 16 wine place names, including Champagne. While that seemed a step in the right direction, the legislation did not address the grandfathering of labels currently misusing Champagne’s name and those of 15 other wine regions. Unfortunately, almost half of the bottles in stores and restaurants still misuse the Champagne name, which makes the grandfathering particularly problematic for consumers who want authentic Champagne.
The United States is one of the last industrialized countries in the world to fail to adequately protect the Champagne name. In fact, the majority of the world’s countries, including the European Union, China, and a growing number of other wine-producing countries from Australia to Chile reserve the Champagne name for sparkling wines from Champagne, France. A bottle with the term “California Champagne” or “American Champagne” cannot be sold in Mexico and, come Jan 1, 2014, will not be able to be sold in Canada. In this area, the United States is out of step with the majority of truth-in-labeling laws.
The campaign uses light-hearted examples such as “Maine lobster from Kansas,” but the practice of misappropriating the names of other places is a trend that faces many regions, and it has the potential of misleading the consumer.
“Truth-in-labeling is a very important issue for U.S. consumers and for the Maine Lobster community,” said Marianne LaCroix, acting executive director at the Maine Lobster Council. “We continue to see restaurants and retailers advertising Maine lobster, yet serving lobsters that are from other places. We are proud to stand with Champagne to remind U.S. consumers to know where their products come from and not stand for those who mislead.”
“Napa Valley wines come from Napa Valley and Champagne comes from Champagne, France. These are important facts that consumers need to be able to believe in when they see these names on wine labels,” said Linda Reiff, executive director of the Napa Valley Vintners. “Unfortunately we all have to fight to protect our names as some seek to profit off them by deceiving consumers. We are honored to be a part of Champagne's advertising campaign and hope it encourages consumers to demand more truthful and accurate wine labeling.”
The ads will appear in a wide range of print and digital formats including placements in The New Yorker, Food & Wine, andTravel + Leisure as well as on billboards in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, DC and online on a wide variety of sites including New York Times.com, Vanity Fair, GQ and the Wall Street Journal.