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Tempest in a Wine Glass

December 16, 1993|DAN BERGER

Two French organizations have filed a petition asking the U.S. agency that regulates wine to prohibit the term "Gamay Beaujolais" from appearing on U.S.-made wine.

The petition says the grape variety identified in the United States decades ago as Gamay Beaujolais was misnamed, and that it is not a Gamay variety at all. Moreover, the petition says, the name uses a French district, Beaujolais, in violation of French law that permits use of such terms only on wine from that district.

The Washington-based law firm of Ropes & Gray said the petition, dated Nov. 17, 1993, asks the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), a division of the Treasury Department, "to prohibit use of the term 'Gamay Beaujolais' in wine labeling and advertising."

The law firm said the petition "asserts that numerous domestic (U.S.) wineries today market a wine called 'Gamay Beaujolais,' but this wine is not made in the Beaujolais region of France or from any variety of Gamay grapes. Nor is 'Gamay Beaujolais' a valid varietal name for the grapes that are used to make the wine.

"As a result, wine called 'Gamay Beaujolais' is falsely labeled and violates federal law and ATF regulations."

BATF proposed in 1986 that the term "Gamay Beaujolais" be phased out of use over a five-year period, but the proposal was withdrawn in 1992. The French organizations that filed the petition, Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) and the Union Interprofessionelle des Vins du Beaujolais, asserted that BATF withdrew the plan to ban the term after pressure from U.S. wineries.

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