US: Champagne Bureau launches campaign to protect wine origins

08 December, 2009

The US Champagne Bureau has launched an ad campaign to persuade lawmakers to protect place names on wines sold in the US.

"Unmask the Truth" aims to rally consumers and features a mask over a sparkling wine bottle mislabelled "American Champagne". It asks consumers to voice their support for truthful wine labels that ensure consumers know where their wine comes from.

Champagne Bureau director Sam Heitner said: "With consumers paying even more attention to how they spend their hard-earned dollars, we believe it is equally important that US consumers be clearly informed about where their wines come from.

"Support for truth-in-labelling is growing, with the involvement of consumer groups and Members of Congress weighing in on the issue for the first time this past year."

The ad highlights a legal loophole in federal law that allows some US 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 include a wrap of a city tour bus in Washington, D.C. and billboards in the heart of San Francisco's downtown district. The campaign includes an aggressive online presence in newspapers such as,, and as well as placements on select American Airlines flights and drive time radio.

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, US 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 contacted Congress in support of reforming US wine labeling laws to better protect consumers' right to truth-in-labelling.

"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 US 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.

Visit to see the ad.