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Swiss "champagne" faces extinction under EU accords

Is it the end of the line for Swiss vin de Champagne?

(Keystone)

A tiny community of Swiss winemakers is fighting to retain the right to call their wine "champagne".

Forty-three winegrowers from the village of Champagne (population 660) in canton Vaud will no longer be able to use the label, "vin de champagne", from June 1, when a series of bilateral accords between the European Union and Switzerland come into effect.

French wine producers, who sell millions of bottles of champagne, won the concession from the Swiss government last year.

Albert Banderet, who heads the village's action committee, told swissinfo that legal proceedings would be launched at the European Court of Justice within the next few weeks.

Injustice

"It is a total injustice to prevent the winegrowers of Champagne in Vaud from using the name of their village on their wine labels," he said.

The wine growers are seeking to have the relevant bilateral treaty amended so they can continue using the label on the 280,000 bottles of wine they produce annually.

Banderet estimates that if they fail to win their case, winemakers could face financial losses of more than SFr1 million a year.

Villagers have enlisted the services of two lawyers to lead their challenge and are confident that they have built up a strong case.

This is likely to focus on historical precedence: records show that wine has been grown in the area since the year 885 and the village's name dates back to 1213.

The legal team is also expected to argue that the terms of the agreement between the EU and Switzerland are "discriminatory" towards Champagne's winegrowers.

"We're convinced we'll be successful because we're asking for democracy to be applied," added Banderet. "We simply can't put up with the strongest elements in society silencing the weaker ones."

by Sally Mules with agencies


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