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'Champanillo' v. Champagne: Barcelona area tapas bars draw ire of sparkling wine lobby

EU court rules in favor of French winemakers, putting name of small chain restaurant at risk

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09 September 2021 03:29 PM

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ACN|Barcelona

Should a small business in the Barcelona area be allowed to be called something allegedly evocative of France's appellation-protected sparkling wine? Or should any product or service (wine-related or not) called champagne (or anything remotely similar) stay in Champagne?

These are the questions the European Union's top court issued an opinion on on Thursday – and things aren't looking too good for David Iglesias, the owner of four 'Champanillo' tapas bars in Barcelona and two other nearby towns.  

'Champanillo', which means 'small champagne' in Spanish, drew the ire of France's sparkling wine lobby, the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), back in 2017 when they first took Iglesias to court.

  • "This is a tapas restaurant. We serve hamburgers, beer, salads, and wine. We only have one cava and no champagne."

    David Iglesias · 'Champanillo' business owner

According to CIVC, the name of his food business is "too similar" to that of the French region's world-famous sparkling wine, and while a commercial court rejected hearing the case in 2018, the lobby did not relent, appealing to Barcelona's provincial court.

The Barcelona court, in turn, asked judges in Luxembourg how the appellation law should be enforced – does it only apply to wine products? Should it affect the name of a small restaurant chain that does not even serve champagne? Is there sufficient 'conceptual proximity' between 'Champanillo' and champagne to warrant a name change?

The short answer is that yes, the appellation law does apply to other products and services, including Iglesias' tapas bars. Although the Barcelona court will ultimately have to rule on the case of the small business owner who has already spent over €10,000 in legal fees, which it is yet to do, Catalonia's countless 'xampanyeria' or 'xampanyet' bars could soon be forced to change their names too. 

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  • 'Champanillo' restaurant chain owner David Iglesias in Barcelona (by Jordi Bataller)

  • 'Champanillo' restaurant chain owner David Iglesias in Barcelona (by Jordi Bataller)

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