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A Contentious Pairing: Champagne and Apple

Plus, the Rhône's Hermitage Hill earns protected status, and wine industry vet Mike Lynch releases his first album

Posted: September 5, 2013

• Champagne, the most esteemed of France's sparkling wines, has not been known to take the "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" outlook when it comes to its brand: The last contretemps on this front occurred earlier this very year, when the White House released an Inauguration menu accidentally describing as Champagne a wine bottle from some dingy low-class backwater called "California." Now the Champenois have directed their considerable reserve of ire at the new Apple iPhone 5S, a product not from France but from China. Apple is set to debut the new phone soon, but photos, videos and rumor already leaked that it will come in a new color option, purported to be called "Champagne." English-language French news source The Local cited comments of disapproval made by Charles Goamaere of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) to L’Union l’Ardennais. "Champagne doesn't have one single color," he said (yet another way Apple's copycatting them!). "So we can’t say that a 'Champagne' color exists. Therefore, any company wanting to use the name 'Champagne' would be doing so [only] to attract all the benefits that surround [the label]." Goameare made clear that the CIVC would get litigious if necessary. "In almost all cases, we've been vindicated," including against non-wine companies like Perrier and Yves St. Laurent. As The Local noted, "In the past, the CIVC has successfully barred the use of 'Champagne' in toothpastes, mineral water for pets, toilet paper, underwear and shoes," all of which one might easily confuse or naturally associate with the famous luxury sparkling wine. You'll just have to wait until the official iPhone release to find out how the cards fall, perhaps while sipping an ice-cold Miller High Life which, thanks to a loophole in U.S.-E.U. trade law, still remains the Champagne of Beers.

• Earlier this week, the towns of Crozes-Hermitage, Larnage and Tain l’Hermitage in the Rhône Valley commemorated Hermitage Hill’s recently acquired National Protected Status. The celebration gathered Hermitage vintners including Michel Chapoutier, Tournon mayor Frédéric Sausset and Tain l’Hermitage mayor Gilbert Bouchet. The achievement was a long process not without obstacles. Last summer the controversy over the building of a 59-foot TV antenna on the hill of Hermitage, 50 yards from the St. Christophe Chapel, sparked anger and protestation from Rhône producers all over the appellation. A few years before that, it was the French high-speed train company TGV who threatened the hill with a rail line. None of these projects came to fruition, however, thanks to the defenders of the Hermitage AOC. On June 5, an edict from the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy declared the heritage classification of Hermitage Hill. This covers 338 acres of land, where 35 vintners cultivate some of the world’s most coveted Syrah grapes. In Tuesday’s meeting, Chapoutier honored the Hermitage tradition with his speech: “When you are born here and grew up at the foot of this beautiful hill, you can only feel immensely proud when you learn it got the recognition as a nationally protected site. For centuries, winemakers in Hermitage helped make this hill the most beautiful possible, treating this land with respect and humility. We want to continue in the same way and make the name of these unique white and red wines even more prestigious around the world.”

Unfiltered readers know that we regularly feature musicians who are plugging into the wine biz, but that current between wine and music occasionally flows in the other direction, with longtime wine industry pros pursuing their passions for music, most notably wine importer Kermit Lynch, who released his second album in 2009. Now another wine industry vet named Lynch has returned to his first love to release an album: Pacific Wine Company founder, winery consultant and marketer Mike Lynch. Lynch has teamed up with singer Mackenzie O’Donnell and the Slow Motion Marching Band to release We Can See Your Feet, a new album with 12 original songs featuring Lynch on guitar. "When my kids went off to college, I decided it was time to get back into music," Lynch said in a press release. "That was seven years ago. I got my old Fender Twin Reverb refurbished and bought a new Stratocaster. I found some local musicians who shared my passion for rock and blues and became a founding member of The Tickets Band," which regularly plays gigs in the San Francisco Bay Area. The new album is a separate project from his regular gig with the Tickets Band, and Lynch wrote or co-wrote all of the songs and plays all of the instruments, with O'Donnell, who Lynch met through his step-daughter, providing the vocals. "She's one of the most talented singers I've ever worked with," said Lynch, who backed up California songstress Barbara Mauritz in the 1970s. We Can See Your Feet is available through CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes.

Harvey Steiman
San Francisco —  September 5, 2013 5:59pm ET
I wonder if the Champenois know about this? http://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/color/find-and-explore-colors/paint-colors-by-family/SW6644-champagne/
Vince Liotta
Elmhurst, Il —  September 6, 2013 7:43pm ET
Yeah, I sold my "Champagne" Chrysler LHS some years ago. (Having sold clothing and drapery previous to my current career in wine, I can confirm the color is commonly used, usually to refer to some combo of golden, pinkish and tan or taupe.) The car's color was quite a robust Champagne color, though, so paying respect to Monsieur Goamaere that "Champagne doesn't have one single color," I suppose it should more precisely have been called Bollinger Grande Annee '90 or '95.

Bob Segel
San Diego, Ca —  September 7, 2013 11:44am ET
I would suggest that Apple keep the name champagne for all iPhones except the ones they ship to France. The boxes with this new colored iPhone sold in France should be labeled, "Sour Grapes."
Jason Bordley
Collegeville, PA —  September 8, 2013 10:50pm ET
"yet another way Apple's copycatting them!". I'm sorry maybe I missed it, but what was the "first" way?

Apple hasn't officially announce anything, and therefore have not called the color option "Champagne". Thus far, the only people calling it Champagne is the media. When it was first rumored that they would be releasing this supposed color, everyone was calling it gold.
Saq Fleurimont
sherbrooke —  September 10, 2013 9:25am ET
Good one Mr. Liotta.

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