Australia Swears Off Bogus 'Champagne'

The classic French bubbly region fights to get its name back

As I write this, it is only 1 day, 16 hours, 40 minutes, and 18 seconds before Australia can no longer legally produce “champagne.” After that, it will have to be Australian “sparkling wine.”

For years, the winemakers of Champagne (France), Port (Portugal), and Sherry (Spain) have been fighting to get their names back from a world that liked their products so much that they wanted to call similar wines made in their own backyards by the same names. Now, through arm-twisting and bartering, most countries — but not all — have fallen in line.

The Champagne Bureau, the U.S. arm of the CIVC, was so excited about the Australia agreement that it launched a countdown website with a clock ticking away until the Down Under country can no longer put “champagne” on its bubbly labels. You have only until midnight August 31 Aussie time to log on to the site and watch the clock. After that, time runs out.

“Most of the major Australian producers there have already complied,” says Sam Heitner, director of the Champagne Bureau, located in Washington, D.C.

But next, the CIVC would love to put a clock on the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Russia — four major countries that still get their kicks from so-called “champagne.”

“Over 50% of the sparkling wine produced in the United States by volume is mislabeled ‘champagne,’” Heitner laments, noting that most of it is the cheap stuff at the bottom of the cuvée. You can go here sign a petition asking the U.S. to cease and desist.

Interestingly, that great land of counterfeiting — China — walks a straight line when it comes to not mislabeling its sparklers. “We have had strong protection there for a long time,” Heitner beams. “They are looking for their own value-added products.”

But for now, it’s fair to predict there will be a few corks popping at the Champagne Bureau’s office on Thursday — real Champagne corks, of course.