Unmasking the Truth About Champagne & Wine Place Names

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Campaign Expands To Ensure Wine Purchasers Know Where Wines Come From

The US Champagne Bureau has launched its “Unmask the Truth” ad campaign, rallying consumers and demanding lawmakers protect wine place names on wines sold in the United States. The ad, which can be viewed at www.champagne.us features a mask over a sparkling wine bottle mislabeled “American Champagne,” and asks consumers to voice their support for truthful, wine labels that ensure consumers know where their wine comes from.

“With consumers paying even more attention to how they spend their hard-earned dollars, we believe it is equally important U.S. consumers be clearly informed about where their wines come from,” said Champagne Bureau director Sam Heitner. “Support for truth-in-labeling is growing, with the involvement of consumer groups and Members of Congress weighing in on the issue for the first time this past year.”


A new ad campaign highlights a legal loophole in federal law that allows some U.S. sparkling wine producers to mislead consumers by labeling their products “Champagne” even though they do not come from Champagne, France. It also champions Champagne’s solidarity on this effort with leading American wine regions such as Napa Valley, Willamette, and Walla Walla – some of whose names have also been misused in Europe and Asia.

The main elements of Champagne’s advertising campaign includes a wrap of a city tour bus in Washington, D.C. and billboards in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown district. The campaign incorporates an aggressive online presence in top national newspapers such as NewYorkTimes.com, SeattleTimes.com, WashingtonPost.com and TheEconomist.com as well as placements on select American Airlines flights and drive time radio. The campaign also includes print advertisements in influential news magazines – The New Yorker and TIME — as well as in two prominent Capitol Hill publications – The Hill and Politico.

In December 2006, Congress passed legislation banning the future misuse of 16 wine place names, including Champagne. While that was 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 international wine regions.

Recently, U.S. policymakers have begun focusing on the issue. Members of Congress sent a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury urging a review of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s wine labeling system. Shortly after, the National Consumers League, America’s pioneer consumer organization, contacted Congress in support of reforming U.S. wine labeling laws to better protect consumers’ right to truth-in-labeling.

“Great wines are made all over the world. This campaign is designed to celebrate this and ensure that when shopping for the holidays, U.S. consumers remember that a Napa Valley wine is from Napa Valley, a Willamette wine is from Willamette, Oregon, a Walla Walla wine is from Walla Walla, Washington and Champagne is only from Champagne, France,” added Heitner.

Champagne is a founding signatory of the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin, a coalition of 13 wine regions from around the world committed to educating the public about the importance of place names. Six U.S. regions are part of the coalition – Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Paso Robles, Oregon, Walla Walla Valley and Washington. The other member regions are Porto, Jerez, Chianti Classico, Tokaj, Victoria and Western Australia.


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