Champagne Bureau Debuts Effort to ‘Unmask’ Impostors

The U.S. Champagne Bureau has introduced a campaign dubbed “Unmask the Truth” to raise awareness of American sparkling wine producers who incorrectly label their products as “champagne.”

The main ad centers on a sparkling wine bottle that reads “American Champagne,” and is partly covered by a mask. Underneath is text: “Champagne only comes from Champagne, France.”

“We’re trying to make it very clear that those who are misusing the name are masquerading as something else,” said the Bureau’s director Sam Heitner. The Washington, D.C.-based trade association, which groups all the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France, claims that 50 percent of sparkling wines in the U.S. are mislabeled as champagne.

Heitner said that Bureau’s goal is to educate consumers, so they know that “each wine is distinct and is a representative of a region, they’re different products so we have to make it very clear that champagne labeling is incorrect.”

The campaign is timely, given that 40 percent of all champagne is sold in the last quarter of the year. The bulk of the campaign will run through February 2010. Along with consumers, the ad also targets Washington, D.C. policy makers.

The most concentrated advertising will be both online and in print. Online ads will appear on NewYorkTimes.com, SeattleTimes.com, WashingtonPost.com and TheEconomist.com. There will be print ads in The New Yorker, Time, The Hill and Politico. There will also be tour bus wraps in the U.S. capital and billboards in downtown San Francisco—the locations central to wine legislation and wine production.

The Champagne Bureau will run radio spots for two weeks this month, and in January, American Airlines will include a flyer on first class and business class meal trays.

The campaign also encourages consumers to sign an online petition to end wine mislabeling. “It’s not an argument that says that one wine is superior, there are good sparkling wines made all over the world,” Heitner added. “We’re just protecting the name.”