The guardians of Champagne will let no one take the name of the bubbly beverage in vain, not even a US beer behemoth.
For years, Miller High Life has used the “Champagne of Beers” slogan. This week, that appropriation became impossible to swallow.
At the request of the trade body defending the interests of houses and growers of the northeastern French sparkling wine, Belgian customs crushed more than 2,000 cans of Miller High Life advertised as such.
Photo: Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne via AP
Warning: Excessive consumption of alcohol can damage your health
The trade group Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne asked for the destruction of a shipment of 2,352 cans on the grounds that the century-old motto used by the US brewery infringes the protected designation of origin “Champagne.”
The consignment was intercepted in the Belgian port of Antwerp in early February, a spokesperson at the Belgian Customs and Excise Administration said on Friday, and was destined for Germany.
Molson Coors Beverage, which owns the Miller High Life brand, does not currently export it to the EU, and Belgian customs declined to say who had ordered the beers.
The buyer in Germany “was informed and did not contest the decision,” the trade organization said in a statement.
Frederick Miller, a German immigrant to the US, founded the Miller Brewing Company in the 1850s. Miller High Life, its oldest brand, was launched as its flagship in 1903.
The Milwaukee-based brand’s Web site says the company started to use the “Champagne of Bottle Beers” nickname three years later. It was shortened to “The Champagne of Beers” in 1969.
No matter how popular the slogan is in the US, it is incompatible with EU rules which make clear that goods infringing a protected designation of origin can be treated as counterfeit.
The 27-nation bloc has a system of protected geographical designations created to guarantee the true origin and quality of artisanal food, wine and spirits, and protect them from imitation.
That market is worth nearly 75 billion euros (US$82.44 billion) annually — half of it in wines, a 2020 EU study showed.
Comite Champagne managing director Charles Goemaere said the destruction of the beers “confirms the importance that the European Union attaches to designations of origin and rewards the determination of the Champagne producers to protect their designation.”
Molson Coors said it “respects local restrictions” around the word Champagne.
“But we remain proud of Miller High Life, its nickname and its Milwaukee, Wisconsin provenance,” the company said. “We invite our friends in Europe to the US any time to toast the High Life together.”
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