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French Winemakers Defend Their “Château”

A proposal by the European Commission would allow American winemakers to use "château" on their labels, which French winemakers claim would diminish the original meaning and value of the word.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

Later this month, the European Commission will address a proposal to allow American wines to be sold in Europe with the word “château” on their labels. This has alarmed French winemakers to the point where representatives from the Bordeaux region were scheduled to meet today to encourage the French government to reject the proposal. One representative says that “the ‘château’ label accounts for up to four fifths of sales for winemakers across France, because it represents ‘a reference of quality’ for consumers.” He adds that if the French agriculture minister does not fight the proposal, winemakers might choose to go to court.

What’s the Big Idea?

Traditionally, the term “château” was reserved for a wine made from grapes grown on a specific and unique patch of land. American wines, some of them comprised of different grapes grown on different plots, should not be given this title, according to opponents, because it diminishes the importance of the term in the mind of the French consumer. They also fear increased competition with American wines, and a devaluation of other hallowed French winemaking terms. According to the representative: “[The United States will use] the term…to create a brand name like Coca Cola or Nike.”

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