The weird wine highlight of this morning has to be this just-released video of Belgian customs officials using some sort of giant metal mechanical claw to destroy 3,200 bottles of André sparkling wine—or, as wine-giant Gallo prefers to label it, André California Champagne (you can download the wmv file here). Man, those pesky E.U. laws protecting names of origin (e.g., anything labeled Champagne has to come from Champagne in France; laws of this sort have been the center of some very thorny trade disputes between the U.S. and the E.U., though a sort of agreement was reached in 2005)! Break one, and you get smashed to bits by a 1,000 pound robotic claw! The video was ever so generously provided to the media by the Office of Champagne, USA, which is the lobbying arm of the Comité Interprofessional du Vin de Champagne, which would be the trade organization of France's Champagne region. Hm. No big surprise there.
Personally, I'm in favor of such laws; Napa Valley Cabernet should in fact come from Napa Valley, not, say, China; anything labeled Champagne ought to come from, well, Champagne. Otherwise, call it sparkling wine. On the other hand, the Champenoise are sort of stuck—just as Kleenex and Xerox have found, once the culture at large accepts your brand name (which the word Champagne might as well be) as the generic term for something, it's very hard to reverse the tide. Even if they get André and Korbel to give up using the word Champagne on their labels, people are still going to call any wine with bubbles Champagne.