Monday, August 28, 2006

Korbel Responds

The following posting came from Paul Ahvenainen, Korbel's Director of Winemaking, in response to my posting, in which I suggested that the Champagne should be used only by wine producers in the Champagne area of France. In his response, Mr. Ahvenainen suggested that this is the view of the self-righteous. My position is that when we receive accurate information from wine producers, everyone, including the producers, is better off.

There is an interesting article that deals with the subject in depth in Wikipedia. Click here to read it.

While I do not agree with his position, it seemed to me to be fair to give the "other side" visibility in this debate.

Mr. Paul Ahvenainen's comments follow:

God I just love the web! Anyone can say just about anything and actually have it read. Unfortunatly, the web hasn't figured out a way to filter for accuracy.

Here I am on a Monday morning, pressing a few hundred tons of chardonnay for future Korbel champagne, and up pops another blogger verbally wagging his self rightous finger at me and all the hard working people here at Korbel.

Everyone is entiled to thier opinion. Let's at least get a few facts straight.

1. The question of regional place names growing into common usage goes far beyond champagne or other wines. Take the term cheddar, is it a place or is it a style of cheese? I think that most sensible people would say that once a term like cheddar comes into common usage to represent a particular style of cheese, regardless of where the cheese was made, it is available for usage. I don't think the US consumer is clamoring for Kraft to drop cheddar from its cheese line anytime soon.

Ask yourself this question: If, without saying anything, a friend at a party hands you a traditional flute of pale fizzy wine as you walk in the door, in your own mind, what did you just recieve? For 99% of people, the honest answer is, "a glass of champagne". Clearly the term champagne refers to a style of wine, not just a place.

2. Korbel's use of the term champagne is permited by both US and EU regulations. The French don't like to admit it, but they just signed a treaty within the last several months, clearly (however relucantly) acknowleging the long usage of the term champagne outside of the Marne Valley. Essentialy, the EU is agreeing that the term is in common usage now, but are trying to bring the usage back under thier control. That's just not going to happen. Cheddar will always be a style of cheese. Wine with bubbles will always be champagne.

3. Don't buy into the Moet & Chandon propaganda machine. This isn't about wine or small growers toiling in the soil. It's about a competitive market place, major corporations and MONEY. I have seen reports circulated in France that converts "California Champagne" sales into euros, very large numbers of euros.

You did'nt also buy into Moet's Dom Perrignon fairy tale, did you?

4. Korbel has been using the term "California Champagne" for over 120 years. Nobody cared until we became a major player in the US market in the 1970's.

5. I have been associated with Korbel for over 20 years. In that time, I have never met a consumer who was confused about the origin of our products. Our identity is firmlly based as an American / California producer.

We are proud to offer the US consumer a choice, and a great value.

Too bad about the White Star, your loss.

Paul Ahvenainen
Director of Winemaking
Korbel Champagne Cellars
Guerneville CA, USA


Anonymous said...

How about Burgundy, Chablis, Sherry, and Port?

What are they? Generic terms?

Anonymous said...

There is a difference between inaccuracy and difference of opinion, which this is. If this is Korbel's approach to addressing the public count me in on the leaving there stuff on the shelf, there are many other American sparkling wines.

Moyey said...

One of the silly things about this is that I remember Korbel as being pretty good. But I too will not buy their wine until they change the label.

Insisting that they make "champagne" places them in a category of wine where they do not really belong.

As for your comment that there are many other American sparkling wines, I was really impressed by Gruet from New Mexico, which I revewed here.

Thanks for your comment.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Moyey. I will not buy any wine that claims to be Champagne unless it really is.

winesmith said...

I'm just now seeing this posting, but I agree...Gruet makes some great stuff. I'm a fan of their sparkling rose.

Mark said...

To be fair to the illustrious and venerable Champagne growers/producers, who have asked the U.S.A. to abstain from the connotation CHAMPAGNE, I agree in principle with the old world tradition. Families in Champagne have owned their vineyards 200 years for some deserved pride of ownership and traditional heritage. No sparkling wine in America has the minerality, fineness of spritz, delicacy, complexity and finish of the best Champagnes-in my opinion.
Of course having a marketing lexicon of terms is another matter. Persons who opt for this incredibly versatile wine should be able to call it whatever they want. Maybe some Korbel Rep should have a contest for the best alternate Cham/sparker term. ChAmeripagne? ChAmerica? Champagne l'Amerique? Champagne l'Americaine?
That said, possibly the new ruling for the appellation extensions in the areas surrounding Champagne/ Proper end this argument forever. I'd think they would add officiale/traditionelle, Champagne Approprié,or maybe Champagne Géographique; Reims, Epernay, Ay, Ludes, etc to delineate appellations of place specificity. Compare the Korbel (hey, Korbel's just a catch-all phrase for new world sparklers, sorry) and any grower/producer Champagne in les Mesnil sur Oger/or grand cru villages and you will never mistake the two products. It's the terroir, hon.