China has agreed to limit the “champagne” label to only wines produced in the French region bearing that name, with a trade group welcoming the move as a boost for the beverage in a fast-growing market.
Sales of the wine are accelerating in the world’s second-largest economy, from 50,000 bottles in 2001 to 1 million in 2010 to 2 million last year, making it the fifth-largest market outside the EU.
However, in a country famed for mass-producing fake goods, the “champagne” label has been applied widely, not only to Chinese-made sparkling wines, but also goods ranging from candles to dog toys, the Comiti Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) said.
The new restriction will enable the organization to seek action against mislabeled products more effectively, it added.
China had “achieved an optimal level of protection,” CIVC spokesman Thibaut le Mailloux said on Monday, welcoming the development.
The country was “one of the biggest future markets for champagne,” he added.
China’s national quality watchdog, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), said champagne had been given “geographic mark protection” within the country.
The announcement on one of its Web sites specified the grape varieties to be used, locations in France where they had to be grown, where the wine should be made and the method of protection, among other factors.
China has only recognized three other labels in the wine and spirits sector, including cognac, Scotch whisky and the American vineyard region of Napa Valley, AQSIQ Director-General Pei Xiaoying (裴曉穎) said.
Sparkling wine was first introduced to China during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (乾隆, 1735-1796) and the Empress Dowager Cixi (慈禧太后) once broke a vase while uncorking a bottle, according to CIVC director-general Jean-Luc Barbier.
The trade body is still lobbying the US and Russia to recognize the champagne label and block local sparkling wine producers from using the name.
“Chinese law gives us protection that Russia and the US do not,” Le Mailloux said, describing their approach as “anachronistic and without future.”