Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Take your bagette and shove it!

Why do this to yourselves when your market is already hurting? The French (and the EU) are poised to try again to restrict use of even more place names, processes and other sheer nonsense in the name of Intellectual and Geographic Property. (The EU proposal describes these as "PGI" [Protected Geographic Indication] and "PDO" [Protected Designation of Origin]...see this link for more though the details aren't on that site...see here instead for detail.)

This is but a sampling of the original April 2008 text, and is in itself a good sentiment preparing to go horribly wrong:

I see it as foolishness on a grand scale. And I blogged about it back in 2005 when it was first being put to the vote, and later over the years (see here [French Angry], and here [EU subsidies reform]).

If the Italians want to limit the use of "Prosecco", fine. If the French want to restrict the use of "Burgundy" or "Bordeaux", again, I'm fine with that too. But now we cross the line of logic and find ourselves faced with a country(-ies, in the case of the multi-headed Hydra that the EU has now become...) which would have us stop using ALMOST ANY of the words we've borrowed from their language - EVER!

Yes, I refer mainly to France, which if all goes well in their eyes, we heathen Nouveau Monde upstarts would be prohibited from using words like "clos", "vintage", "chateau", etc. But a question remains...where does this all end?
Will we be prohibited from naming restaurants "Chez"? (think "Chez Panisse" for example...)
Will brands of French bread such as "Parisien" be outlawed?
Will "French bread" itself be renamed "EU-style yeasted wheat foam" to avoid confusion with the continental product??

The real problem is that the French - once proud that their industry led the world in both product sales and ubiquitous verbiage to describe not only the wine itself, but the process by which it is made, as well as practices in the vineyard, are now wanting to rescind their lease of words we seem to have borrowed...
And please note: the word "vineyard" is yet another potential casualty in this war. "Martha's Vineyard" will soon become "Martha's Orchard For Grapes" (BTW "orchard" is safe to use due to its humble beginnings in Latin...).

And what other words may be in danger...?
Brace yourselves! How about Chardonnay, Cabernet, Sauvignon, Pinot, Noir, Gamay (not that anyone uses that anymore), Blanc, Sirah, Petitte, etc...
Yup, you guessed it, all first coined by the French and then adopted by the unwashed hordes and used throughout the world to describe wines. Why should they stop just with place names or winemaking styles? This is a very slippery slope they want to place us on.
And what of words like "bleu"? Words which we culturally associate with French, but originating from Germanic and Norse language words before the French picked it up.
Will France be required to drop those words in a nod to the cultures it stole them from? Really, where will this process finally peter out...there seem to be so many layers it depends on where people finally become fatigued and stop the bureaucratic nonsense.

In the meantime, how will we deal with this - do we all have to learn Latin and use that? Certainly there aren't any members of the Roman culture still around to protest the use of a language which has been considered "dead" by top scholars for many centuries....

We need to stand up for "generic" and "semi-generic" terms now, or face the future consequences of a few determined, but closed minded imperialist Frenchmen...
Perhaps s
oon the French will be the only ones allowed to speak French at all, and will see their world shrink as well as their wine sales...

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Anonymous Scott said...

Maybe they are going too far, but the idea is a good one if they're protecting the names of their own styles of wine. But how do they think we'd get along without VINTAGE?

March 26, 2009 10:17 AM  
Blogger Jack said... the rule more closely.
It ONLY APPLIES TO WINES IMPORTED TO THOSE COUNTRIES. It has nothing to do with what you name your restaurant or hotel or dog or cat!!! This is exactly why I can't stand wine bloggers. More like wine blaggards...

March 26, 2009 12:18 PM  
Blogger St. Vini said...


Maybe YOU don't export wines, but I what do I put on my label for "vintage"?

What does "Clos Du Bois" call their winery on the label - do they have to have a separate brand identity for the EU now that "clos" is verboten?

The rant is aimed at other countries proscribing terms which are considered "generic" by the wine drinking it on their soil or ours, it's still an onerous & odious expectation.
To quote Fred Franzia:
"You don't expect French toast to come from France, do you?"
I hope you'll be able to excuse my need to exercise a little reductio ad absurdum!

And with all due respect if "wine bloggers" offend thine eyes... well, I think you could guess where I'm heading with the rest of that line.....


March 26, 2009 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone use "vintage" on their label anymore? Heck, I don't even see it on French wine labels. Everyone assumes the date is the vintage date. This example seems like a non-issue.

March 27, 2009 6:33 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

True, "vintage" isn't used all the time.

And not many wineries use "clos" least not here in California. But there are wineries which have that term in their names, as well as use other terms like "port", "champagne", "cognac" etc. The point being that if the term has been in use so long it's no longer associated with a specific area, but an entire class or style of wine, then what? Just because a word originated in one culture that doesn't make it right for the originating culture to later restrict those terms for only their use, does it?

Many of the words the want to exclude form our use are considered "everyday" words...
And if "vintage" or "vineyard" becomes a victim, what about any future claim that "vintner" can't be used also since it came from the same root word?
If they can do this for words on the labels for their countries, does it also apply to back label descriptions?
Do wineries looking to sell to them with restricted terms in their names have to develop whole new labeling schemes if not outright secondary brand identities for the EU market?

Try this experiment: go an entire day without using the word "it", and see how complicated that becomes for you. Essentially that's what it would be like for a California winery trying to sell their wine in the EU without being able to use the word "vineyard"...

If the cost of doing business is too high with these restrictions, or just becomes too difficult, I for one would stop exporting to them period.

That's why this is important, and why the EU should look beyond just the "nationalistic" pride that it will regain from these measures.

Thanks for the comment.

March 30, 2009 1:52 PM  

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