Sunday, August 27, 2006

Moet 1 - Korbel 0

That's right. The winner is Moet. Korbel just lost a sale

I have just bought a bottle of Moet & Chandon White Star. Actually, I was looking for a bottle of California sparkling wine, but I decided not to because I became irritated by Korbel.

I have had Korbel's sparkling wines before, and I have enjoyed them. But today I noticed that they continue to mark their offering with the word, Champagne, in addition to indicating that they are made in the methode champenoise. I carefully looked at all the other bottles, and I noticed that all the respectable companies in California (Piper Sonoma, Gloria Ferrer, Codorniu Napa, Mumm) call their wines in this class sparkling wine. The exceptions to the rule tend to be at the very low end of the market, including some of the wines from New York State. It seems to me to be silly that Korbel wishes to join the ranks of Cooks, Totts, Taylors, and Great Western.

So to express my irritation, I decided to buy a bottle of the real thing!

I would be interested in comments from readers. In my opinion, there is no need to call a wine Champagne when it clearly does not come from the Champagne area. Let me know if you agree, and if you do, please boycott these wines! If you don't please let me know. I would be interested to hear from you. In the meantime, I am looking forward to drinking a wine that truly deserves to be called Champagne.

In my previous post, I noted how much information Ridge gives to its consumers. I wish Korbel would give us the same respect!

5 comments:

Paul@Korbel said...

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

Moyey said...

Thank you very much indeed for your comment. I appreciate your contributing to the debate.

Here is the nice thing about a blog. Anybody can comment, and you certainly had your say.

I take some exception to your remark that the "web hasn't figured out a way to filter for accuracy."

My article was mostly factual. Korbel uses describes its wine as champagne. And you don't dispute that.

I also added that, in my opinion, that was not a good thing. I do not believe that it is good for Korbel; nor do I believe that it is good for the consumer.

I then invited debate on the matter. And I welcome you having your say. Isn't that perfectly fair?

And just to give your perspective even more visibility, I will elevate your remarks to a full posting.

But, once again, I thank you for your remarks and for sharing your perspective. I just happen to disagree.

Moyey

Roy Mize said...

In years of wine drinking, thought I learned that good ones come from terroir, weather & vinter care. Sparklers from Champagne are always good, but not always the best. The best one I ever had was from a private Australian winery & made from Viognier. (Its not for sale.) Champagne is the best protected brand in the world. but we don't call computers 'ordinateurs' just becasue some French think we should. Curiousity qauestion: Do any of the vines in Champagne have American or other roots because of 19th century phylloxera?

Anonymous said...

Actually, "Champagne" comes from the region, or terrior, of Champagne, which is exclusively from France. Yes, the French hav captioned the term so well, that we Americans now refer to *any* sparkling white as "chamapagne". But technically it should be from Champagne, no matter how long you decide to put it on your label.

And yes I ~do~ "buy into" Dom Perignon...it makes a difference to me, as does the 1990 or 1982 Chateau Margaux...and you know this. It might not be "worth it" to everyone, but for my palate, it is, and is what I choose my value.

I think the definitive question you are asking however, would be: Is your bottle of Korbel Brut a great value for the money? For the average wine quaffer the answer is most surely YES. I laud your efforts, but for accuracy purposes, you know the truth. If you hav been in the wine business as long as you claim, you must be aware of this..

A $10 bottle with your flavor profiles is rather nice. (Though there are other good values such as Chateau St. Michelle for high-volume purchases i.e. wedding events, corporate parties, larger celebrations, etc).

Good Luck in your future endeavors, and keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Actually, "Champagne" comes from the region, or terrior, of Champagne, which is exclusively from France. Yes, the French hav captioned the term so well, that we Americans now refer to *any* sparkling white as "chamapagne". But technically it should be from Champagne, no matter how long you decide to put it on your label.

And yes I ~do~ "buy into" Dom Perignon...it makes a difference to me, as does the 1990 or 1982 Chateau Margaux...and you know this. It might not be "worth it" to everyone, but for my palate, it is, and is what I choose my value.

I think the definitive question you are asking however, would be: Is your bottle of Korbel Brut a great value for the money? For the average wine quaffer the answer is most surely YES. I laud your efforts, but for accuracy purposes, you know the truth. If you hav been in the wine business as long as you claim, you must be aware of this..

A $10 bottle with your flavor profiles is rather nice. (Though there are other good values such as Chateau St. Michelle for high-volume purchases i.e. wedding events, corporate parties, larger celebrations, etc).

Good Luck in your future endeavors, and keep up the good work!