The Orange Widow

POSTED ON 08/02/2014

Until last month, the name of Ciro Piciarello would have no more been on the lips of most wine lovers than the fizz made by this obscure Italian wine producer. But the wine news was buzzing last month with reports that the giant Champagne company, Veuve Clicquot, the widow of the yellow label, was suing the little Campanian wine company for having the affrontery to use an orange label for its 3,500 bottle fizz run. An orange label, that is, not yellow, and not for a Champagne but for an Italian vino spumante. The jobsworths at Veuve Clicquot who initiated the claim had clearly never been within a country mile of Specsavers.

The problem is that Veuve Clicquot has had a certain degree of success in suing or threatening to sue minnows for daring to use the Clicquot yellow-orange. The colour is known as Pantone 137C and it’s been registered as a trademark to prevent others from ripping it off in the EU, USA and Australia. It successfully sued the Spanish cava Don Jaime for instance in 2012 for using an orange which Don Jaime had itself trademarked as Pantone 1375C. The court found in that case that there wasn’t a significant amount of difference between the colours.

In 2001, the threat of legal action against the tiny Stefano Lubiana Winery for using 'Clicquot Orange' resulted in Lubiana agreeing to withdraw its fizz rather than face a costly legal action. And In 2004, the Brussels Court of Appeal allowed Veuve’s owners Moët Hennessy Champagne Services to prevent a Belgian company from using a similar yellow-orange colour in combination with the word 'Malheur', printed in blue, for beer. In 2004 the Brussels Court of Appeal allowed MHCS to prevent a Belgian company from using a similar yellow-orange colour in combination with the word 'Malheur', printed in blue, for beer.

But tChampagne hasn’t become a multi-billion euro industry by sitting on its hands. Like Veuve Clicquot, the entire industry is constantly on the qui vive to snuff out any kind of infringement against the valuable Champagne name. You’d think that Champagne producers would be proud of the term ‘méthode champenoise’ to describe the method of re-fermenting the still wine with yeast to produce carbon dioxide, or bubbles. But no, it stamped on that by refusing to allow any other company or region top use the term.

Usually it’s to do with the name rather than a colour. You may remember Champagne producers coming down like a ton of bricks on our own little minnow, Thorncroft, for using the word Champagne its non-alcoholic elderflower fizz. Equally famously, Yves Saint Laurent was taken to court for launching a perfume called Champagne. It’s almost certain that this was deliberately done for the publicity and that the legal costs made the resulting publicity worthwhile. They do say that all publicity is good publicity. It clearly will be for the hitherto obscure Ciro Piciarello. Less so for the giant Veuve Clicquot, now justifiably pilloried thanks to its laughable sledghammer tactics.

For a guide to my selected Champagnes and sparkling wines for Valentine’s Day, please check out on Friday 14 February.

Something for The WeekendSomething for The Weekend

Something for the Weekend 8 February 2014

Night In

2012 Pazos del Rey Godello , Monterrei

This appealing Galician dry white, with the refreshing aromas and sweet ripe apple and peach flavours of the godello grape, is nicely textured and poised and makes an excellent seafood alternative to albariño. £9.99, Marks & Spencer

Dinner Party

2012 The Magpie Estate Black Craft Shiraz, Barossa Valley.

Youthful colour, spicy nose, seductively bright blackberry fruit richness, intense fruit flavours, fine balance, succulent tannins, juicy savoury acidity, a lovely, youthful, juicily vigorous no hairs out of place Barossa shiraz. Just about drinking now but should be perfect in year's time. £11.95 - £12.99, SWIG, Corks Out, Momentum Wines, D Byrne, Great Grog, Bacchanalia, Noel Young Wines, WoodWinters, Cheers Wine Merchants, Caviste, All About Wine.

Splash Out

2007 Contino Rioja Reserva.

Alluring smoky, liquorice-spicy nose, lovely succulent, mellow-textured dark fruit with classic balsamic-savoury acidity on the aftertaste. Hugely appetising. £16.67, Berry Bros, Waitrose, The Wine Society.

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