EU blocks some California wine imports

• From the New York Times:

Europeans, who have long chafed at California wineries using geographic terms like Champagne and Chablis to describe their wines, have banned the importation of some U.S. wines using such terms as "clos" and "chateau" on wine labels.

Those French words, along with other terms like "classic," "tawny," "noble," "ruby" and "vintage," are all strictly regulated wine terms in Europe, with specific rules for who gets to use them and when.

Now, the European Union is contending that U.S. vintners must adhere to the same EU rules for wines using terms regarded as "traditional expressions" in order to avoid confusion.

The wine trade spat could affect a number of California wine brands including one of Sonoma County's signature wines, Clos du Bois.

"Their justification is that these terms are traditionally used in specific countries and that if other countries used these terms, it creates confusion on the part of consumers," said Joe Rollo, export director for the San Francisco-based trade group Wine Institute.

The EU has been trying to persuade other nations to cease using such terms since 2002, but not very aggressively. It never enforced the 2002 rules, and in 2006, when the last major trade agreement with the United States was struck, American vintners were given a three-year exemption. That waiver ended March 10. U.S. trade officials declined to comment.

[Go here for the rest of the story.]

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