Oliver McCrum wrote:Hoke,
I don't think there's anything wrong with the EU protecting place names.
My take on the the US use of foreign place names to describe American wine is that it came from a time when the US product was felt to be inferior. Now that American wines have come into their own, and are seen that way by US consumers, such misuse is fading.
I was very amused to see the outrage by US Zinfandel producers at the use of the Zinfandel name to describe Primitivo from Apulia...
Oliver: I don't think there's anything wrong with it either. Not at all. In fact, I believe it is totally appropriate. I support it.
Place names. But claret, to me, is not a place name, and it's general usage over the many years (illuminated by Bob) supports that it is not. Point to a place on the map where there is a "claret".
Bordeaux, yes. I'll even go with Burgundy (an Anglicization of Bourgogne, which is what the French use. But claret? Nope. And I'd have to put Hock in the same category. Also have to put words like "vintage" in the same category. I don't consider them place names.
As to the original US use of European place names, I agree that part of the practice was because American wines were considered inferior (and almost inevitably, they were, then). But another reason for the usage was less..shall we say nefarious, or misleading...and more about an easy way for the consumer to understand, in a very general sense, what the product was supposed to be---or pretend to be.
Granted, that there were no rules imposed. Indeed, that there were no rules at all in the wild and wooly West, since there were no restrictions in law, just muddied the issue, is regrettable. But understandable.
I really don't believe the original perpetrators of misuse thought they were going to fool anybody. Do you? Would you have been so gullible (whether wine knowledgeable or not) to believe in the 1800s that a California producer was making and selling "Burgundy" or "Champagne" that was every bit as good, or anywhere like, the Real Stuff? I doubt it.
When I first travelled to Chile in 1994, I couldn't help but notice (because it was common practice) to see Chilean wines sold (in-country only) with names like "Margaux" and "Pauillac" and "Pomerol".
Funny thing: not once did they ever deceive me into thinking that the actual product, or even the actual style, of Margaux, Pauillac and Pomerol were in the bottle. And I seriously doubt that they ever deceived any person who bought one of those bottle.
You know, I'd be much more sympathetic to the moans and groans of the EU, and especially the Champenoise, did I not know that for many years the revered firm of Moet et Chandon sold their product produced in Argentina as "Champana", only to change it when they became militant about protecting their parent name for their most famous product. Then, of course, later, they brought the same product in to the USA and labelled it in such a manner that it was very difficult to know the product was from Argentina, and by marketing it as Chandon, led consumers to believe that it was from California