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Washington Insight

August 02, 1993|PAUL HOUSTON

NOT SO BUBBLY: Champagne makers aren't raising fluted glasses to a new federal labeling requirement that takes effect this month after a torrid political fight. It's a typical Washington compromise that pleases neither side--neither traditional vintners who ferment champagne in individual bottles nor revisionists who make their bubbly in bulk tanks. . . . The new rule says bulk processors such as E&J Gallo Winery don't have to put "bulk process" on the label anymore, a term Gallo considers "derogatory." They can use the vaguer "secondary fermentation before bottling." But Gallo had sought to use only "Charmat method," a French-sounding phrase that resembles the methode champenoise term used by traditional vintners. . . . Traditionalists such as Korbel Winery, who fear sales inroads by the Gallo champagnes, complain that the new rule still allows bulk processors to mislead consumers into believing they are getting quality wine at cheap prices. That's because Gallo may display the word "champagne" without putting "California" next to it. Thus, fume the champenoise folk, Gallo's Eden Roc and Andre brands can take on the cachet of France.

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