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03.11.2009

Starting Today, You Can't Sell Fine California Wine in Europe

Something is rotten in the State of Denmark, Hamlet famously proclaimed. Rotten may not quite describe it, but something is definitely amiss in the European Union when it comes to importing wine. Apparently it wasn't enough for the US to agree to stop using the words Port, Champagne, and Burgundy on products that were clearly not from these areas.

Today a piece of legislation has gone into effect that forbids the sale of any U.S. wine in Europe that has any of the following words on its label:

chateau', 'classic', 'clos', 'cream', 'crusted/crusting', 'fine', 'late bottled vintage', 'noble', 'ruby', 'superior', 'sur lie', 'tawny', 'vintage' or 'vintage character.'

Is this a bit of sneaky revenge against Chateau Montelena thirty years after the fact? Or just a lousy bit of protectionism in the face of stiff global competition? Sorry Clos du Val, Chateau St. Jean, and any winery that was silly enough to use the word 'vintage' on the label. Place names are one thing, standard English words are quite another.

Now we know why they call it the world's biggest bureaucracy.

Thanks to Jack at Fork & Bottle for telling me about it and pointing me to the text of the regulations.


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