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Bursting Bubbles

Tomorrow night people all over the world will be popping corks from all over the world -- but it's only champagne if it's from Champagne.  France, that is.

Under both international agreements and national laws governing geographical indications, Champagne qualifies as a protected classification.  The idea is that the essential qualities of the beverage are attributable to its home territory, and if it's made anywhere else, it just isn't the same.  (A few California wineries were grandfathered in and continue to produce "champagne," but they're the exception to the rule.)

Of course, in blind tastings during my international intellectual property seminar at 3 different law schools, the students were generally unable to tell the difference between genuine and faux champagne.  I'm not sure whether this demonstrates that geographical indications are overrated or that future lawyers' tongues are sharper than their palates.  To their credit, my international LL.M. students always seem to do a bit better than their American classmates. 

So enjoy your Italian prosecco, Spanish cava, or good old American sparkling wine.  But if you call it champagne, you may be sentenced to a hangover.

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