What is Champagne?
There are many people that feel the term “Champagne” can legitimately, legally and morally only be applied to sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of France. With this in mind, can the term ”California Champagnes” by properly used? The answer is yes it can… sometimes. If you wish to try and read the legalese surrounding the ability to use the term “champagne”, check out the U.S. Code found here: U.S. Code TITLE 26, subtitle E, CHAPTER 51, Subchapter F, PART III, § 5388.
Basically this document states that a “Semi-generic” designation can be used to designate wines not from the original Champagne region as long as the name of the originating region (in this case California) is added to the label.
This exception alone does not allow all wineries to use the champagne designation. The legal protection for the designation came from the Treaty of Versailles which was enacted in June of 1919 after the first World War and has been accepted by many countries worldwide. Many of those countries have signed agreements with the EU that limit the use of the term “champagne” to only those products produced in the Champagne region. The United States acknowledges the exclusive nature of the “champagne” term and bans the use from all new US produced wines. Only those wineries which had approval to use the term on labels before 2006 may continue to use it and only when it is accompanied by the wine’s actual origin, as in California.
In this website, the term “champagne” will only be applied to certain wineries and products that can legally use the term. We will use the term “sparkling wine” unless the product is specifically labeled as Champagne.