‘The Champagne of Beers’ Does Not Leave a Good Taste for French Producers

    25 April 2023

    European protectors of Champagne will not let just anyone use the name of the drink. That includes a large U.S. beer company.

    Champagne is an alcoholic drink that is produced in France. It is made in an area about 140 kilometers east of Paris.

    For years, the American beer Miller High Life has used "Champagne of Beers" as its slogan. A slogan is a short phrase used for advertising products.

    In this image provided by Comite Champagne, a label on the side of a carton of Miller High Life beer at the Westlandia plant in Ypres, Belgium on April 17, 2023. (Comite Champagne via AP)
    In this image provided by Comite Champagne, a label on the side of a carton of Miller High Life beer at the Westlandia plant in Ypres, Belgium on April 17, 2023. (Comite Champagne via AP)

    But last week, customs agents in Belgium destroyed more than 2,000 cans of Miller High Life because the word "Champagne" appeared on the cans. They did so at the request of the trade body defending the interests of the French makers of Champagne.

    The Comité Champagne made the request because they say the American beer company's use of the word goes against the protected status of products from the Champagne area of France.

    A spokesperson at the Belgian Customs administration said last Friday the shipment was taken by officials in the Belgian port of Antwerp in early February. The beer was being shipped to Germany.

    Molson Coors Beverage Company owns Miller High Life. But it does not currently export the beer to the European Union. Belgian customs did not say who ordered the beers.

    The buyer in Germany "was informed and did not contest the decision," the trade organization said in a statement.

    Frederick Miller was a German immigrant to the United States. He founded the Miller Brewing Company in the 1850s. Miller High life is its oldest product. It was launched as its main drink in 1903.

    The product's website says the company started to use the "Champagne of Bottle Beers" slogan three years later. It was shortened to "The Champagne of Beers" in 1969.

    "With its elegant, clear-glass bottle and crisp taste, Miller High Life has proudly worn the nickname ‘The Champagne of Beers' for almost 120 years," Molson Coors Beverage Company said in a statement to The Associated Press.

    No matter how popular the nickname is in the United States, it does not follow European Union rules. Those rules state that goods that go against the protection of products from a protected area can be treated as counterfeit.

    The European Union has a system of protected areas created to guarantee the true source and quality of some foods and drinks. A 2020 study by the E.U.'s executive arm found the market is worth nearly $87 billion each year.

    Molson Coors Beverage Company said it "respects local restrictions" around the word Champagne.

    The company says it remains pleased with Miller High Life and its longtime slogan. Company leaders added they invite their friends in Europe to the United States any time to try the beer together.

    Belgian customs said the destruction of the cans was paid for by the Comité Champagne. They released a joint statement that said it was carried out with "respect for environment concerns." They said the contents and container were destroyed in an environmentally responsible way.

    I'm Gregory Stachel.

    Samuel Petrequin reported this story for The Associated Press. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    contest v. to say that you do not agree with or accept (something)

    elegant adj. graceful and attractive

    crisp adj. pleasantly cool, fresh, and dry

    counterfeit n. something that is made to look like an exact copy of something else in order to trick people

    designation – n. the act of officially choosing someone or something to do or be something

    determination – n. a quality that makes you continue trying to do or achieve something that is difficult