Château Américaine

There used to be a banquet hall in Lakewood, N.J., called the Chateau Grand where proms and weddings were once held. Instead of a moat, the Chateau was surrounded by a vast parking lot. It’s since closed down and the site is desolate (perhaps by now it has been leveled to make way for a townhouse complex). But it’s the sort of name-appropriation that would make a French vintner like Dominique Haverlan ill.

In Monday’s Washington Post, Haverlan complains to correspondent Edward Cody about the American use of the term chateau on some stateside wine labels. “They’re trying to steal our reputation,” says Haverlan. “The real chateaux, they’re certainly not in the United States.” It matters more these days as the European Commission deliberates on possibly allowing into the EU American wines that use the terms “chateau” and “clos” (such as, in my opinion, the unremarkable Clos Du Bois California Chardonnay that retails for $13.99). Can one really compare this to, say, Chateau Haut Brion? Stay tuned as the vote to lift the ban may occur later this year or early next.

How serious does the EU treat name protection? Belgian custom officials once smashed 3,200 bottles of André “California champagne” that happened to be in its jurisdiction (I was shown the video of the bottles’ destruction while in Champagne, France). It’s sort of like Faces of Death for sparkling wine.

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