On a special occasion, you want to break out a bottle of Champagne, but French officials decided to just break some Champagne.
Officials in the country destroyed the nearly 35,000 bottles labeled as “Champagne” that violated France’s infamously strict naming rules, Forbes reported. They were discovered in October 2021 by custom officials in the northern port of Le Havre; they bore the label “Couronne Fruit Champagne” and came from Haiti.
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They were meant to be sold in France, however a law states that only sparkling wine from the French Champagne region is allowed to use the title Champagne, Forbes reported. In October 2022, the Paris Court of Justice ruled that the “marketing of these bottles was likely to infringe the Champagne protected designation of origin,” sealing their fate. Some of the bottles can be seen below.
Les douaniers du #Havre empêchent l’importation illégale de 34 499 bouteilles de contrefaçon de #Champagne.
👉ces bouteilles contrefaisaient l'appellation d'origine protégée
Communiqué ⤵https://t.co/TfqeuMq3Tm pic.twitter.com/zKBNSzJMhs
— Direction générale des douanes et droits indirects (@douane_france) May 25, 2023
The naming rules originate from France’s Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée system, commonly referred to as AOC. It gives the country exclusive use of the word in countries that follow EU laws on geographical names. Over 121 countries follow such rules on naming, according to the Champagne trade association.
Charles Goemaere, director-general of the Champagne Committee explained to the BBC why it was important to destroy the bottles. “This kind of use contributes to weakening the reputation of the appellation,” Goemaere told the outlet. “The fight against the abuse of the Champagne name started in 1844 and hasn’t stopped since.”
French customs officials take the job of blocking counterfeit food and alcoholic beverages very seriously. They said in 2021 alone they removed 200,517 counterfeit products from the market, according to Forbes. Foods like cheeses—including Italian Parmesan and British Stilton blue cheese—are also restricted by similar naming rules.
We previously reported on another destruction involving an alcohol Americans are surely familiar with. Miller High Life, which has long since used the branding “the Champagne of beers,” also upset naming officials. The Champagne Committee had a shipment of 2,000 of the American brew beers destroyed by Belgian officials.
So if you want Champagne, drink the genuine article. After all, we’re here to help you find it.