Office of Champagne, USA
True Champagne only comes from Champagne, France. But in the United States – unlike any other industrialized nation in the world – there are inadequate wine labeling laws. As a result, consumers are misled by domestic producers of sparkling wines who wrongfully masquerade as Champagne and, as such, mislabel their products. The grape growers and Houses of Champagne turned to CLS for help tackling this consumer rights’ issue.
CLS established the Office of Champagne, USA to serve as the public face for the Champenois’ interests in the United States. CLS then developed and currently executes a multi-faceted public affairs and marketing campaign. This effort is designed to raise the American consciousness of the issue of name protection, forge critical alliances with U.S. industry groups to strengthen Champagne’s case before policymakers and trade negotiators, and manage a comprehensive educational campaign targeting lawmakers, media and wine enthusiasts.
CLS’ campaign has propelled critical advances in the name protection arena:
- In 2005, after 15 years of negotiations, the first phase of a wine trade agreement was reached between the United States and the European Union. Per that accord, no new wines may be labeled Champagne unless they come from Champagne, France. While the measure allows for the “grandfathering’ of a vast number of mislabeled “Champagne” wines, the fact that the issue of name protection was addressed at all within the framework of the Wine Accord discussions was a major milestone many thought impossible.
- Public opinion research has shown for three years running that a majority of American wine consumers now support the campaign’s proposition – misleading labels that falsely reference another region’s name should not be allowed at all in the American marketplace.
- Perhaps most significantly, CLS has successfully mobilized a large group of allies and third party advocates to work on behalf of name protection. From wine retail stores, sommeliers and chefs to economists and trade specialists, the network built by CLS provides the Champenois with American voices as their U.S. spokespeople. In addition, CLS has been able to activate well-known and reputable wine regions around the globe to join Champagne in the fight to protect place names. Under Champagne’s leadership, the Center for Wine Origins was created to leverage the impact of Champagne, Port and Sherry as a credible and united front on this issue. In addition, CLS forged and maintains meaningful relationships with top American wine regions like Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Walla Walla, Oregon, and others. In all, seven U.S. wine regions joined Champagne in inking the first-ever Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin. Today, 13 wine regions have signed that Declaration, a CLS brainchild.
A blend of advertising, earned media, online and viral marketing, consumer education, and coalition building have successfully brought the name protection issue front and center in the American collective psyche and pushed forward its place toward definitive legal, trade or legislative action.