Recently, several groups have made statements that contradict TTB’s efforts to protect consumers from false and misleading labeling as well as our efforts to uphold international agreements and the laws of the United States as they apply to the labeling of semi-generic wines, in particular, Champagne.
Following years of negotiations, the United States and the European Union (EU) signed an agreement on trade in wine on March 10, 2006. In the agreement the U.S. committed to seeking to change the legal status of the semi-generic names to restrict their use solely to wines originating in the applicable EU member state with certain exceptions, in particular, a “grandfather” provision. Under the “grandfather” provision, any person or their successor of interest may continue to use a semi-generic name on a label of wine not originating in the EU provided the semi-generic name appeared on a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) that was issued prior to March 10, 2006. It should be noted that the requirement to use the name in direct conjunction with an appropriate appellation of origin disclosing the true place of origin must have been satisfied in order to have received the “grandfathered” Certificate of Label Approval. The legislative proposal to change the legal status of the EU semi-generic names was enacted on December 20, 2006.
The Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (IRC) defines each semi-generic name as a name of geographic significance that is also a designation of class and type for wine. The IRC further states that a semi-generic name may be used to designate wine of an origin other than that indicated by its name, only if there appears, in direct conjunction with the designation, an appropriate appellation of origin disclosing the true place of origin and the wine so designated conforms with the standard of identity. These provisions of law ensure that the consumer will not be misled regarding what the product consists of or where it came from.
One of the recent statements claimed that TTB was considering a change in label rules that would end the use of “Champagne” on any label other than those from Champagne, France. TTB has no intention to undermine the provisions of the agreement reached with the EU or the provisions of the IRC.