France Says “No” to “Chateau”

From the country that is more proprietary than any other when it comes to wine terms—France—we bring you yet another complaint about language.

Over the years, French vintners have spent a good deal of money and time in court seeking to ban other countries from using such geographic names as Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux on their bottles of wine.

And now, they would like American wineries, as well as wine estates in other countries, to stop using the word “Chateau” in their names.

“What is at stake is the respect for tradition and quality,” Federation des Grand Vins de Bordeaux President Laurent Gapenne told Raf Casert of Associated Press.

The latest brouhaha stems from the desire of American vintners to have trade barriers removed by the European Commission. There had been a three-year grace period on the use of “chateau” and “clos” by American vintners seeking to sell their wares to European Union countries, but it expired in 2009. There’s a wide trade gap between the E.U. and the U.S. that American vintners are hoping to close.

The Wine Searcher website lists 13 California wineries that include “Chateau” in their names:

Chateau Boswell
Chateau Felice
Chateau Julien Wine Estate
Chateau Lasgoity
Chateau Lettau
Chateau Margene Cellars
Chateau Montelena Winery
Chateau Potelle Winery
Chateau Rodin
Chateau Routon
Chateau Sinnet
Chateau Souverain
Chateau St. Jean

And with wine now being made in all 50 states, you know there are many more wineries that also use the word in their names.

It’s a classic turf war, playing out on the chalky, stony vineyards of Europe and America.

How do you feel about this issue? Should any country other than France be able to use the words “Chateau” or “Clos” on its wine bottle labels? We welcome your thoughts in the Comments box below.

Posted in The Wine Business
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