News & Events
The Center for Wine Origins is pleased to present this week’s author on“Spotlight on Bloggers,” Dr. Michael Lim editor of The Travelling Gourmet. Each week we will feature a new wine blogger committed to sharing with readers their passion and knowledge of wine. If you are a wine blogger and are interested in being featured on our website please email us at email@example.com.
Nouveau Riche Label Wine Drinkers
By Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GourmetTM
Who is a renowned Travel, Food and Wine Writer/Editor/Educator and International Wine Judge
MOST will agree that the world of wine is sometimes an elitist world of snobbery and pretentious individuals who want to show off their knowledge of wines. By doing so, they sometimes exhibit their ignorance of wines. Their obsession with Parker points stems from their basic misunderstanding of Parker points which apply to only wines in that particular price range and category. They interpret it as applicable to all wines, whether white, red, sparkling, fortified, New World, Old World, or what have you. As for Parker, while I have the greatest respect for him, an eminent Swiss wine importer, Monsieur Michel Bouverat told me once, “Mom ami, how can one person taste so many wines??? C’est impossible!” Think about it…
And, highly reliable sources in Bordeaux tell me wineries know what Parker likes and which type of wines he will award high points to. So what do they do???
Eh, voila! They simply make batches of their wine to the taste and aroma profile that will get them the high points… and then let Parker taste them. The rest is made as per normal. When the high points are awarded, they jack up the price of their wines. Scandalous! Hard to prove that this goes on but…
And Parker himself, it is documented that he has NO formal training in Oenology or Viniculture so how in heaven’s name did he become so influential???
And so to nouveau riche label drinkers. They go for Parker points, misunderstanding what they really mean and in China and the Orient, they go for the most expensive wines to show off to their friends and business contacts. “Look I have 2 cases of Chateau Petrus and it cost me this obscene amount of money. I know about wines and I am rich too!” Ludicrous and laughable, especially when they add coca cola and ice cubes to the wine in China. As the proverb goes, “New money shouts, old money whispers…”
Nevertheless, in the commercial world, restaurants and winemakers and wine importers have to pander to the tastes of these wine drinkers. Why? Money! Sell expensive label wines to them and you make lots of money, capiche!
SIA (Singapore Airlines), the best airline in the world by many accounts, in their Wine Selection process tastes the wines ‘blind’. This is good. However, when it comes to the final selection, what clinches the selection of a particular wine is how well the label is recognised by the nouveau riche. Therefore, a better wine in the eyes, nose and palate of their tasting panel, who I am honoured to call my friends, may be rejected. Why? Simply because it is unknown to the brand conscious nouveau riche that fly on SIA’s First, Business and Economy class. Incidentally, the members of SIA’s tasting Panel are my good friends, Steven “Bottleshock” Spurrier, Michael Hill Smith and Jeannie Cho Lee.
As they say, the right wine and the best wine is the wine YOU like. Your personal taste is the best judge. So what the hell, if you are the nouveau riche, buy and drink your Cos d’Estournel, Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, Chateau Angelus (which James Bond 007 drank in Casino Royale), Chateau Petrus, Chateau Margaux… God knows, the wine importers and producers need the money. And money, mon ami, makes the world go round.
C’est la vie et c’est le vin…J
The Center for Wine Origins is pleased to present this week’s author on“Spotlight on Bloggers,” Nancy Yos editor of At First Glass. Each week we will feature a new wine blogger committed to sharing with readers their passion and knowledge of wine. If you are a wine blogger and are interested in being featured on our website please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Champagne and war
A shell hits Rheims cathedral (World War I)
Ninety years ago to the day after the guns of World War I, “the Great War 1914-1918″ fell silent — at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month of 1918 — the above are a handful of everyday expressions and words dating from that time, which we use without thinking of their origins. To go “over the top,” for example, meant to undertake something far more awful than merely to appear extravagant, goofy, or out of control.
Ninety years ago, when the guns fell silent, the toll in European casualties was unbelievable. The Germans and the Russians lost over 1,700,000 men each in battle deaths alone. France lost over 1,300,000 troops; Austria-Hungary over 1,200,000. Britain sacrificed over 900,000 men, Italy 650,000, Turkey 325,000. Civilian deaths at both fronts, in Serbia or in Poland, in Belgium and northern France, are estimated to amount to five million. These figures come from Appendix III to Norman Davies’ book Europe (Oxford University Press, 1996). He points out, in tiny print beneath one of the tables, that some of these counts come from “post-war demographic shortfalls,” not the actual cataloguing of smashed bodies in the field. A lot of people just disappeared.
This is hideous stuff, and not the sort of information we want to associate with champagne, the wine, in all its froth and joy and celebration. But listen to a wine writer describe Champagne, the land, in France:
The northern edge of the old province touches Belgium, and it includes the departement of the Ardennes, the cool, forested hill country which abuts the frontier. The southern neighbour is Burgundy. To the west lies Paris, to the east, Alsace and Germany. (Champagne by Serena Sutcliffe, Simon and Schuster, 1988).
It begins to sound sinister. She goes on to say that Champagne not only lies thus at the crossroads of western Europe, but also that its flat, open land and the wide valley of its river, the Marne, all make it quite easy of access to invaders. Its capital, Rheims, was captured five times in four fairly recent generations (1814, 1815, 1870, 1914, 1940), and its splendid Gothic cathedral was “virtually destroyed” during World War I. When you read history books on this war you will find that the place names sprinkled about in them, still and forever tinged with eerie melancholy, often belong in lovely Champagne.
And it’s not just names in books about this war. Leap back in time 1600 years, and meet, prowling the vulnerable province circa 450 AD, no less a figure than Attila the Hun:
The valour of Attila was always guided by his prudence; and as he foresaw the fatal consequences of a defeat in the heart of Gaul, he repassed the Seine, and expected the enemy in the plains of Chalons, whose smooth and level surface was adapted to the operations of his Scythian cavalry.
This is from the wonderful Edward Gibbon, in his The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Vol. II, chapter XXXV). A quick look at a map will clarify that in Chalons, we are in Champagne. Incidentally, we are a long way from Scythia. The Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, given him here by “the last of the Romans,” a general named Aetius, is considered one of those seminal events that prevented the West from being swallowed up by gigantic, slave-like, and always predatory Asia.
Leave Attila and leap forward again: Champagne was also prowled over by (non-Asian) armies of different religions and different nationalities in — pick a century — the 1400s, the 1500s, the 1600s. Any thirsty troops could readily drain the cellars of the wineries whose fields they were tromping underfoot, not least of all the cellars of a place like the abbey of Hautvillers, once home to the monk Dom Perignon. The abbey lost 600 barrels at one go, it seems, when one Marshall Turenne was there in the 1650s (Hugh Johnson, Vintage: The Story of Wine). When Russian soldiers were quartered in Rheims in 1814 — think Napoleon, and all the enemies he made — an enterprising woman champagne maker decided to appeal to the occupiers’ taste by loading up her house’s sparkling wine with sugar. The rewards were excellent: the occupiers liked it, took the taste for it home, and soon bottles of Veuve (“widow”) Clicquot “became very popular in the land of the Tsars” (Sutcliffe).
What proportion of Champagne’s wine making history, dating back two thousand years at least, has been spoiled by war? Did Attila’s horsemen also treat themselves to a gulp of something good from the cellars beside the Marne, before abandoning hopes of Europe and commencing that long jog home? And I wonder if it seemed too grotesque for the men signing the armistice in Marshal Foch’s railway carriage on November 11, 1918, to drink afterward the wine of joy and celebration. An American in Paris described the delirious happiness of that day.
The streets are crowded and all traffic held up. There are some things, such as this, that never will be reproduced if the world lives a million years. They have taken movies of the crowds, but you can’t get sound nor the expression on the people’s faces, by watching the pictures.
He doesn’t mention champagne, but it does seem that after four years of most unexpected carnage, the public festivities in a victorious capital that day were, shall we say, over the top.
The Center for Wine Origins is pleased to present this week’s author on“Spotlight on Bloggers,” Rohan Shrikhande editor of The Wine Law Blog. Each week we will feature a new wine blogger committed to sharing with readers their passion and knowledge of wine. If you are a wine blogger and are interested in being featured on our website please email us at email@example.com.
A Growing Realm of Intellectual Property in Wines and Spirits: Geographical Indications
By Rohan Shrikhande
A geographical indication (GI) is the name of a place or region within a country that serves a primary identifying function for a product originating from that location. A primary example of a GI is the term Bordeaux, which refers to red wine from the Bordeaux region of France. A GI may be present when the name of the location drives consumer recognition of the quality, reputation, or other characteristic of the product. Typically these regions keep strict standards and police how products baring the name are produced and manufactured. The same name used on products without these same standards can confuse customers and dilute its significance or value in the marketplace.
The United States currently protects GI’s under the construct of the system for registering trademarks. The system allows nationals and foreigners alike to apply to protect terms through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Examples of domestic GI’s that are protected are terms such as Florida Oranges or Napa Valley Wines, while foreign marks such as Cognac and Darjeeling are equally protected. There is no individual GI registry in the U.S., so one would search for a GI through the registry for trademarks. Also, a GI can be registered as a certification mark, where the owner of the mark allows third parties to use the term if they meet the standards or qualifications for the product. Some GI’s are also protected outside of the intellectual property regime and under case law, also called the common law.
Protection here in the United States extends from the Lanham Act, passed in 1946, which allowed for trademark registration. There is a seemingly contradictory nature to protecting GI’s under trademarks, because a trademark must be distinctive, while GI’s appear to be non-distinctive because they are simply names of regions. A GI must therefore satisfy a secondary meaning of distinctiveness, by creating an “association in the public mind between a product and its source” that arises when the non-distinctive term becomes distinctive based on a particular product (Gilson on Trademarks § 2.09). For example, the term Napa Valley would not have been very distinctive 150 years ago, but today because of the strong connection with wine it creates in the minds of consumers, the designation is distinct enough to be protected.
France has been the major influence on the European Union’s GI system, having implemented a strong domestic GI system, known as the appellation d’origine contrôlée, which has been existence since 1935 and protects over 500 wine and spirits GI’s. A system in which geographical indications and registration of appellations are congruent is practical and more easily understood, while the US system tends to confuse some because of the division between GI’s as trademarks and appellations as American Viticulture Areas (AVA). Even the World Intellectual Property Organization considers appellations as a type of GI. In the U.S. the two are held apart, with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approving the adoption of AVA’s, while the USPTO dictates which GI’s will be protected under the trademark construct.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has held wines and spirits as a special class of GI’s due to the uniqueness of a wine depending on the climate, soil, and other geographical considerations of a particular region. Further, regional designations are more important to wines because they are generally the chief identifying factor of the taste and quality of a particular wine. Wine drinkers tend to recognize terms such as Chianti, Bordeux, and Napa more readily than they do specific brand names, which exemplifies the economic interest in protecting these GI’s. Due to this the WTO believes wine and spirits garner increased protection, from which a special system for the registry and notification of wine and spirits GI’s has been in development.
A system for the multilateral notification and registry of geographical indications for wines and spirits has been in the works since 1997, when Article 23.4 of the TRIPS Agreement (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) was agreed to by WTO member states. The purpose of the system would be to facilitate the protection of GI’s on an international scale. In 2001 the Doha Declaration once again affirmed this mandate. In the years since, there has been a tug-of-war on how to implement the system between two factions, one lead by the European Community (EC), India, China, and others (the Draft Modalities proposal) and another by the U.S., Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, and Australia, among others (the Joint Proposal). Another proposal by Hong Kong seeks a middle ground between the two. The key distinction is to what extent notification and registry of a geographical indication will bind members that agree to be part of the system to act, and also how the registry will affect third parties that do not wish to be a part of the system or stand to gain no benefit from the system (essentially those that do not have a wine and/or spirits industry). Other contentious issues involve the costs of such a system, special treatment for developing or least-developed countries, and whether member states should have the ability to make reservations or exceptions to the agreement.
The Draft Modalities is more rigid and includes more obligations than the Joint Proposal, which is unsurprising because Europe has the most to gain from an international GI system. Terms synonymous with the concept of GI’s such as Port, Champagne, and Bordeaux are just a few of the many GI’s that originate from Europe. The Draft Modalities seeks to amend Article 23.4 of TRIPS, the provision which required a system of notification and registry of GI’s for wines to be created in the first place. They seek to create additional elements to the system which they believe are necessary for its effectiveness: binding legal effects on all members, a rebuttable presumption in favor of registered GI’s, and the ability of members to make reservations to the agreement (if a particular GI term is deemed generic or not within the definition of a GI to the member state’s IP administrative body). They assert that the Joint Proposal is too weak to be successful.
The Joint Proposal is a less rigorous system which seeks to stay in line with the text of the TRIPS agreement. Membership to the system would be voluntary, and those that did join would be required to consult the registry when making decisions regarding GI protection in their own country. Those states that are not members would have access to the system and be encouraged to use it, but would not be required to. They contend the Draft Modalities proposal is unfair because it would force member states that have nothing to gain from a GI system for wines and spirits to bear the economic and administrative burden of it.
Both sides bolster their arguments using treaties pivotal to international law. The problem is international law is a fluid concept that is very much up to the interpretation of language and intent, and where many contradictions arise between the multitude of instruments and international or regional bodies that are in existence. For example, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties was created by the UN to dictate how treaties are negotiated for between states. A fundamental provision of that document states that a treaty cannot impose obligations on third party states without its consent. The Joint Proposal asserts that due to this provision, a system such as the EC’s which would legally obligate all WTO members to opt into the GI system for wine and spirits goes against this principle of international law. On the other hand, the Draft Modalities contingency argues that the definition of a multilateral agreement used in practice by the WTO obligates all members to be a part of the system.
The International Trademark Association (INTA), a highly regarded international organization which has promoted the protection of intellectual property worldwide for 125 years, recently published an opinion on the current status of negotiations. INTA believes the GI registry should be similar to current international instruments which facilitate patent and trademark protection. While INTA doesn’t explicitly side with the Joint Proposal, the opinion makes clear that they do not agree with a system that binds all members, and seek a system which respects the territoriality of administering intellectual property protection. They believe the system should put the decision of whether to protect a GI into the member state’s hands, but which would also allow decisions to be challenged in the national courts of that member state. The reason intellectual property protection is administered on the national level is because different terms have different meanings depending on where you are. A potential GI may be deemed generic or have already been trademarked in a particular member state, which would impact that states ability to protect the particular GI.
It will be difficult for the Draft Modalities contingency to overcome apprehension to the strict system they wish to impose that would force the registry on member states. In a report by the former TRIPS Chairman in November 2009, he conveyed this same apprehension.
While U.S. wine producers may question the need for an international system of registry when there is already a functioning domestic GI protection scheme in place, the real benefit may come down the road. At some point emerging wine producing nations such as China, India, Chile, and New Zealand may look to sponge off of the success of AVA’s such as Napa or Sonoma, just as American wineries did with European appellations such as Champagne, Port, and Bordeaux. American wine producers need to make it clear to these nations that AVA designations must be respected, which the international registry would help accomplish. While the American delegation understands this, they also do not want to concede too much leverage to the EC, whose proposed GI’s may be generic or trademarked in the U.S. The two butted heads in 2005 when the WTO ruled in favor of the U.S. on a long standing complaint against the EC for insufficiently protecting U.S. trademark owners and discriminating against non-EC products
The WTO recently held another special session regarding the issue on June 10th. Once again, “the stumbling block”, described by current Chairman of TRIPS, Ambassador Darlington Mwape of Zambia, was the legal effects/consequences of registering and participating in the system. Both sides have shown willingness to further progress in the negotiations though, so hopefully a consensus will be achieved soon. The Hong Kong proposal may be a converging point, which seeks to impose binding effects on members more so than the Joint Proposal, but not as restrictive in nature as the Draft Modalities faction. In any case, a registry such as this would impact winemakers throughout the world and should be followed closely by those in the wine industry here in the U.S. and worldwide.
The Center for Wine Origins is pleased to present this week’s author on“Spotlight on Bloggers,” Denman Moody editor of Denman’s Wine Blog. Each week we will feature a new wine blogger committed to sharing with readers their passion and knowledge of wine. If you are a wine blogger and are interested in being featured on our website please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Decant it and Let it “Breathe”?
In May 1977, my late friend Alexis Bespaloff published “A Corking New Wine Theory” in “New York Magazine”. In blind tastings with Robert Mondavi, Paul Draper of Ridge Winery, Alexis Lichine of Bordeaux Chateau Prieuré-Lichine, Kevin Zraly , cellarmaster at Windows on the World Restaurant and now author of “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course” and John Sheldon, wine consultant at Tavern-on-the-Green, Bespaloff uncovered an embarrassing fact.
For Draper, the wine used was his 1974 Geyserville Zinfandel. For Mondavi, his 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon and for Lichine, his 1967 Chateau Prieuré-Lichine. In each case, for each taster, one of his bottles was decanted one hour before serving. One was simply uncorked an hour before serving. A third was decanted and served minutes before the tasting and the fourth was just uncorked and served minutes before the tasting. Mondavi and Lichine tasted each other’s wine also. Don’t shoot the messenger, but in every case, including a 1973 Chateau Pichon-Lalande with Zraly and Sheldon, the bottle that was just uncorked and served at the time of the tasting was preferred!
Bespaloff goes on to say he queried both the famous French wine consultant Emile Peynaud and the prominent U.C. Davis enology professor Vernon Singleton on the subject, and each just uncorked their wines and poured them with similar thoughts about non-breathing.
Bespaloff went even further and opened two bottles of 1967 Figeac on one occasion and two bottles of 1967 Chateau Latour on another occasion, one decanted an hour before and one uncorked minutes before serving. In each case, four other wine drinkers “…discovered, to their astonishment, that the bottle just opened and poured had more flavor and a bigger bouquet than the one decanted an hour before…”
Now this is serious evidence as to how best to serve wine. But even though this article appeared 33 years ago from one of the most prolific and knowledgeable wine writers in the world, the custom of opening a bottle to let it breathe and decanting wine to let it breathe is as firmly entrenched as ever.
After writing about this several times in the past, I decided to test the theory myself. I asked Bill Floyd at Reef Restaurant if he would round up four or five serious wine professionals to have a go at a blind tasting conducted by myself. The wine was a 2005 (outstanding year for Bordeaux) Chateau Lynch- Moussas ( a very good Classified Growth Bordeaux, at least since 2002). Omitting the fourth bottle which was slightly off, I decanted one bottle two hours before the tasting, I decanted one bottle one hour before the tasting, and opened one bottle just before the “judges” arrived. I then poured the three offerings, two from decanters and one from bottle, separated the tasters, and served the wines blind.
The tasters were composed of the following: renowned “Houston Chronicle” sports and wine writer Dale Robertson, who also wrote up the tasting; one wine-savvy restauranteur; one well-known wine wholesaler; and several well-known Houston sommeliers. All but one thought the wine served from the bottle that was opened and poured into the glasses just prior to the tasting was the most flavorful!