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Court Rejects French Attempt to Ban Canadian Champagne

July 3, 1987

TORONTO (AP) _ Canadian winemakers popped champagne corks to celebrate an Ontario Supreme Court ruling that Canadian bubbly, as well as French, may be called champagne.

Justice William Dupont rejected a suit filed by 16 French companies, including Moet et Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, demanding that Ontario wineries stop calling their product Canadian champagne.

The judge said Thursday he could find no evidence that the Canadian product had damaged the sales or reputation of the French original.

″Canadian champagne is a distinct Canadian product not likely to be confused or even compared with French champagne,″ the judge said.

″The evidence indicates quite clearly that the high regard and reputation of French champagne has not been affected by Ontario sales of Canadian champagne and remains well established in this province.″

He said deception was unlikely since the seven Ontario wineries clearly labeled their product Canadian champagne, and it sells for $6 (U.S.) a bottle, compared with $22.50 (U.S.) for champagne from France.

David Diston, vice president of Bright’s Wines, closed his Niagara region winery early so the 175 employees could celebrate the verdict.

Bright’s sells two-thirds of the 1 million bottles of champagne consumed in Ontario each year, which is only about 1 percent of the total wine market.

″It’s a prestigious, expensive product,″ Diston said.

Diston said the decision could have repercussions for other products with a French connection, perhaps enabling cheese makers to market Canadian brie.

The French companies argued that only bubbly made in the Champagne region of France could use that word on the bottle. They said use of the name elsewhere would be like selling Canadian whiskey as scotch.

During his state visit to Canada in May, French President Francois Mitterrand chastised Ontario on the issue.

″For a very long time, vineyards in Champagne have been producing a wine, and that wine is called champagne,″ he said.

Lawyers for the French companies said they had not yet decided whether to appeal the verdict.

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