Champagne? It's all in the taste, says top Europe court
BRUSSELS - Reuters
Europe's top court dashed brand-jealous champagne producers' hopes on Dec. 20 with a ruling that a sorbet sold by German discounter Aldi Sud could be labelled with the word champagne because it contained it.
The five-year old case started when Aldi Sud sold the sorbet in its German stores marketed as "Champagner Sorbet". It contained 12 percent champagne.
But that was a step too far for industry lobbying group Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne which asked a German court for an injunction to stop the sale, saying that the sorbet champagne was free-riding on the quality and prestige of the real thing.
The court subsequently asked the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (ECJ) to clarify the commercial use of the European Union's protected designation of origin.
This designation gives protection to hundreds of local delicacies, including Greek feta cheese, English Stilton cheese, Italian Grana Padano cheese and Rioja wine from Spain. The ECJ said the sorbet did not exploit this rule.
"A sorbet may be sold under the name 'Champagner Sorbet' if it has, as one of its essential characteristics, a taste attributable primarily to champagne," the ECJ said.
"If that is the case, that product name does not take undue advantage of the protected designation of origin 'Champagne'," the court wrote in its judgment.
The court's adviser had backed the Comite in a non-binding opinion in July. Aldi Sud, meanwhile, has long since stopped selling the champagner sorbet.