Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Part II -- Regulatory histories: The definitive comparison of Champagne, Franciacorta, Prosecco, and Cava

The regulatory histories of Champagne and Prosecco are bound up in brand protection strategies and questions as to the physical boundaries of the brand and who/what would be excluded from the brand inner circle.  The case of Champagne was further complicated by an internecine war between the French Departments of Marne and Aube as to wheteher Aube should be considered a part of Champagne or a part of Burgundy. The regulatory histories of Prosecco and Franciacorta were tame in comparison.

In the 1890s and early 1900s, the grape growers in Marne and Aube felt that the Champagne Houses were bringing grapes in from other French regions, blending it with local grapes, and calling the resulting product Champagne.  This was a problem on two levels: (i) It had quality implications in that bad product would reflect directly on the "Champagne" growers and (ii) more importantly, it provided competition for local grapes in an environment where prices were already deathly low. Growers organized themselves into the Fédérations des Syndicats Viticoles de la Champagne and lobbied the government to pass laws that would make it a fraudulent act to sell a wine as Champagne if it was made, wholly or in part, with grapes from "foreign" sources. The Law of August 1, 1905, went a long way to meeting the organization's goal in that it allowed the government to regulate the composition and origin of wine "of general and specific areas" ( and to pursue offenders.

In order to "flesh out" the 1905 Law, a December 1908 Law defined the areas that would be considered as Champagne for wine-production purposes.  The areas designated as such were Marne and selected communes in Aisne to a total of 33,500 hectares.  A subsequent Law passed on the 17 June, 1911 designated Aube as a Champagne-Deuxième Zone, a classification which would prevent Aube-resident growers from selling their grapes into the main Champagne region.  The Aube growers were unhappy with this solution and they took the issue up again after the end of WWI and got relief with the Law of May 6, 1919 which defined the Champagne wine-growing region in terms of size as well as grape varieties.  Marne inhabitants disputed the Law and it was placed in the hands of an arbitrator for final resolution.  His findings, which made their way into the Law of 1927, defined the AOC system for all of France, did away with the Champagne-Deuxième Zone, and included Aube in the Champagne AOC (

Champagne region post the 1927 Law (Map source:

Beginning in 1935, a governing body was put in place to "ensure that wines called Champagne consistently meet definitive quality standards, both inside and outside the region" (Margaret Weeks, A Toast to the Good Life: Exploring the Regulation of Reason, April 2003,  Organizational names have changed over the years but the mission has remained the same. The progression of organizations are as follows: Commission of Chalons -- established by the French Government in 1935; Commission of Chalons dissolved by the Vichy Government during WWII and replaced with the Bureau National de Repartition des Vins de Champagne; and Vichy organization was replaced by the Comite Interprofessional du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), the organization that manages the process up to this day.

On Friday March 14, 2008, reported (New Champagne areas defined) the first major changes to the Champagne region since the passage of the 1927 Laws. According to the report, the grape-growing zone was to be expanded from 319 communes to 357, the wine-production zone was to be expanded from 634 communes to 675, and two wine-growing communes were to be struck from the  list of approved growing areas.

The Prosecco DOC was first awarded in 1969 and was restricted to wines produced in the Conegliano-Valdiobbadene region.  Growers felt that the brand was under attack by "imitators" using just the grape variety and moved to isolate those competitors by changing both the rules and the venue of the game.  Prosecco growers agitated for, and gained regulatory acceptance of: (i) extension of the Prosecco DOC to cover all of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and approximately two-thirds of Veneto; (ii) promotion of the original Prosecco DOC to DOCG status; (iii) changing the name of the source grape from Prosecco to Glera; and (iv) restricting the use of the name Prosecco only to Glera sparkling wines produced within the delimited zones.  The growers felt that these actions would serve to protect their territory, the brand, and the quality of Prosecco.  The regulations authorizing these actions came into law in 2009.

Pre-2009 Prosecco regulated zone (Map source:

Post-2009 Prosecco regulated zone (Map source:

As I mentioned previously, there were no perceived existential threats to either the Cava or Franciacorta brands so their regulatory histories were relatively tumult-free. The Trade Regulations for Sparkling and Fizzy Wines was first established in Spain in 1959 and was formalized in the 1969 Order of the Ministry of Agriculture wherein Cava was acknowledged as the term for sparkling wines made with second fermentation in the bottle. The 1972 Minesterial Order established the Regulatory Board of Sparkling Wines -- comprised of vinegrowers, producers, and Community Representatives -- which oversees the growing, production and marketing of Cava. Cava was granted DO designation in 1986 and is considered a quality wine under the EU Laws.

The Franciacorta Consorzio was founded in 1980 and the region obtained DOCG status in 1986.

My next post in the series will focus on the physical characteristics of the regions.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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