The Importance of the GI

I received a press release yesterday containing what’s probably the single most irrelevant piece of news I will encounter all year:

‘India and Malaysia Recognize Cognac as a Protected Geographical Indication’

The release goes on to point out, almost orgasmically, that the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) has finally achieved recognition by both countries as a GI.

Is this not the poster child for ‘meh’?

Maybe, maybe not.  In any event, it winds up being an interesting segue into the overall significance of legally protected Geographical Indications—essentially, certifications of origin for an item contained simply within its name.  GIs are similar to trademarks and apply to food as well as wine and spirits.

The most familiar example of this is ‘Champagne’. Sparkling wine from the small province of Champagne, a hundred miles east of Paris, has strikingly different characteristics than those from Guerneville, California.  But whereas most sparkling wine producers have dropped the word ‘champagne’ from their labels, Korbel has opted to leave it on, citing a ‘semi-generic’ provision under U.S. law.

Other semi-generic memory tweakers are Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy, which, in 1972, Los Angeles wine critic Robert Balzer called “the best wine value in the country today.” (As it happens, Hearty Burgundy is still around.)

So is Carlo Rossi Chablis, which most people will never confuse with real stuff if only because it’s eight bucks for a 1.5 liter jug.

At least sauterne had the decency to drop the original’s final ‘s’. Like, what’s wrong with Carlo Rossi Chabli, anyway?

Apparently Cognac has a similar problem, which I did not know.  What the India/Malaysia agreement amounts to is that the registrations confirm a legal foundation upon which the BNIC can contest misuse of the term Cognac in these countries.

Another reason why the agreement was so vital to the BNIC is that, surprisingly enough, Malaysia is the third largest Cognac consumer in the world.  France itself comes in at number five.

Who knew?  And more importantly, who would want those mad Malays drinking Korbel brandy and thinking it’s Cognac?

Total output of 2010 Uganda banana wine

Okay, so the next time I’m snickering at a press release, like the one I just received headlined ‘Uganda Produces Less Banana Wine Than Usual’, I’ll remind myself of this inexcusable boner and kick myself in the faux pas.

For further information, please contact:

Jean-Louis Carbonnier, Cognac USA / c/o Carbonnier Communications

Tel : 212-216-9671 / Email :

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