Belgian customs authorities have destroyed 3,200 bottles of sparkling wine from the US termed "California Champagne".

The bottles of Gallo's André sparkling wine carried the terms "California Champagne" and "André Champagne Cellars", and are "in direct violation of export laws in numerous countries that protect the place names of wine regions", the Office of Champagne said yesterday (10 January).

The bottles were destroyed on Tuesday (8 January) in agreement with the owner of the merchandise.

"Since the passage and implementation of more rigorous legislation, customs agents and border patrols throughout Europe have seized and destroyed thousands of bottles in the last four years illegally bearing the Champagne name, including product from the US, Argentina, Russia, Armenia, Brazil and Ethiopia," said Bruno Paillard, Champagne producer and representative of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC).

Office of Champagne, USA director Sharon J. Castillo added: "The continued destruction of shipments of American sparkling wine seeking access to the European market also highlights the broader issue of name protection in the US. While the global wine market moves towards greater protection of products original to a specific region, the US government and some sectors of the American wine industry insist on continuing to mislead consumers."

"While international wine growing place names such as Napa Valley are increasingly protected in Europe, our government refuses to afford that same legal protection to European products in our country. More importantly, it is disingenuous for some American producers to use a legal loophole to masquerade as Champagne and mislead the public."