Legal issues bubbled up several years ago when a German retailer offered up "Champagne Sorbet" at Christmas time. With the European court having weighed in on the broader issue, the case now goes back to a German court.
The European Union's top court has ruled that if a sorbet tastes of Champagne it can be called "Champagne Sorbet."
The case began five years ago when the German discount store, Aldi Sud, sold the sorbet in its German stores marketed as "Champagner Sorbet." The product contained 12 percent champagne.
But the industry lobbying group Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIPV) objected, and they asked a German court for an injunction to stop the sale.
The lobbyists accused the makers of sorbet champagne of free-riding on the quality and prestige of the real thing. They argued that the name exploits the reputation of Champagne, which is a protected name.
Subsequently the court asked the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (ECJ) to clarify the commercial use of the European Union's protected designation of origin status.
Protecting local delicacies
This designation gives protection to hundreds of local delicacies, such as Greek feta cheese, English Stilton cheese, Italian Grana Padano cheese and Rioja wine from Spain.
The ECJ said the sorbet did not exploit this rule.
"A sorbet may be sold under the name 'Champagner Sorbet' if it has, as one of its essential characteristics, a taste attributable primarily to champagne," the ECJ said.
"If that is the case, that product name does not take undue advantage of the protected designation of origin 'Champagne'," the court wrote in its judgment.
The court's adviser had backed the Comite in a non-binding opinion in July.
The case now goes back to Germany's Federal Court of Justice now has to decide the case, "in light of the evidence before it," the Luxembourg-based judges said. The amount of Champagne in the product is not the lone deciding factor, they noted.
Aldi Sud, meanwhile, stopped selling the champagner sorbet long ago — after Christmas 2012.
bik/rc (Reuters, AP, dpa)