Awards and citations:


1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for investdrinks.org

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award




Friday, 19 December 2014

Why my Christmas will be Champagne-free

Jacky Blot Triple Zéro Pétillant, AC Montlouis


I'm looking forward to a Champagne-free 12 days of Christmas. The 12 days will be Champagne-free because of the CIVC's ludicrous, extremely heavy-handed and ruthless attempt to crush Jayne Powell (aka Champagne Jayne). As the CIVC represents all of the Champagne producers Champagne, whether from one of the large houses or from a fashionable grower is not at all appropriate for festive celebratory occasions. 

Given that Champagne Jayne is a highly enthusiastic – dare I relentless – Champagne advocate and supporter, I should save Champagne to mark man's ingratitude to women! 

Amazingly despite all she has endured I am confident that Jayne will be drinking Champagne over the days of Christmas       

This week has seen the unedifying sight of the CIVC wielding its very substantial legal might in the Federal Court in Melbourne to attempt to crush Jayne Powell ('Champagne Jayne'). Although Jayne is a great Champagne enthusiast and advocate, she stands accused of benefitting from the renown of Champagne and for tarnishing Champagne's reputation by occasionally mentioning and tasting non-Champagne sparkling wines. 

See the daily reports by Graeme Lofts from the Melbourne court room: 15th December, 16th, 17th and 18th

Jayne spent two days in witness box with lawyers from the CIVC trying to show that she confused and misled consumers by mentioning and featuring both Champagne and non-Champagne sparkling wines. Demonstrating their green credentials the CIVC lawyers produced, during the cross-examination, a 282-page print-out of Jayne's around 3400 twitters followers. Doubtless there  were multiple copies made – for the judge, for defence lawyers etc. The CIVC's lawyers wanted to know if Jayne knew all of her followers and whether she thought there might be any that could be misled. 

Although many consumers often tend to think of any wine that has bubbles is Champagne, it isn't actually very difficult in a shop to distinguish between Champagne and other sparkling wines. You'll find Champagne printed on the label. Also non-Champagnes are often cheaper and better value.             

The two parties announced at the start of the Thursday session – the last day of the trial – that they had agreed to mediation in March 2015. Good news if the mediation turns out to be meaningfully.

It is, of course right, that Champagne protects its name but the CIVC and the Champagne producers have lost any sense of proportion. As Graeme Lofts commented after attending the trial: 

'I have no doubt that as Champagne Jayne, Ms Powell has had a positive impact on the Champagne brand in both Australia and the UK. Why not work with her rather than against her? In this way both sides would be winners.'

Rather than Jayne Powell tarnishing Champagne's reputation, it is the CIVC who has tarnished the reputation of Champagne. This tarnishing has been ably assisted Veuve Clicquot pursuing (harassing?) small producers in Tasmania and Italy over alleged similarities in the colour used in their labels. 

It would be intriguing but, of course highly unlikely, to see one or a group of the currently fashionable Champagne producers decide to sue ther CIVC for inflicting needless damage on Champagne's reputation by their relentless pursuit of Champagne Jayne. As far as I know there hasn't been the merest batsqueak of a protest from Champagne against the CIVC's action.

Before the case started I tried to speak to someone in Champagne about the case and what they thought about it. Despite using a someone with good contacts no-one was prepared to speak. There were, however, fatuous suggestions that Champagne Jayne was doing this for publicity. Through her stand against the CIVC and the Champagne producers Jayne could face potential bankruptcy – there are safer and less risky ways of getting publicity!

I see that the Champagne may become a world heritage site. If they are successful, it will be the first known time that UNESCO has awarded heritage status to blue plastic rubbish bags. If the Champenois application is successful will, I wonder, the sugar beet fields in the Champagne region be included in this World Heritage site? 

     ‘unique and exceptional value characteristics of the site’ 
A vineyard at Epernay

  
One of the sparkling wines I will be enjoying will be Triple Zéro (Montlouis) from Jacky Blot. Delicious and made from low yields – so low that many Champagne growers would assume that the decimal place is wrongly positioned! Made from ripe grapes with no extra sugar added at any time – first fermentation, tirage or expédition, so hence Triple Zéro.

Here's to Jayne Powell 'Champagne Jayne', who bravely stood her ground and refused to be intimidated despite the pressure and the odds!  


  

Diary date: RAW Sunday 17th and Monday 18th May 2015





SAVE THE DATE!

RAW London, 17th  & 18th May 2015 

Message from RAW organisers: 
'We're back in central London for the fifth edition of the fair.

London's largest artisan wine fair is returning to the Old Truman Brewery (Spitalfields) on 17 & 18 May 2015. All wines showcased are organic or biodynamic with low intervention in the cellar, and many are totally natural - pure fermented grape juice.

Be sure to save the date so you can pop along and sample tasty wonders alongside a delicious range of other artisan food and drinks. Ticket sales and trade registrations will open at the end of January 2015.

We are also working on another location for 2015 - more news to follow. 

Stay in touch: twitter (@RAWfair)  | facebook (/RAWfair) | RAWfair.com'

The Truman Brewery venue for RAW 
on 17th and 18th May 2015

 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

CIVC v Champagne Jayne: Day 4 – Fizzical battle paused

Despite the pressure and bullying by the CIVC Jayne remains loyal
'One of my favourite Champagnes – Louis Roederer'
Mildly ironic in view of this week's trial that Louis Roederer 
sponsors wine writer awards!


Graeme Lofts reports from Melbourne 
After three days of argument and aggressive cross-examination of Champagne Jayne by lawyers representing The Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), the opposing parties have agreed overnight to mediation during the first week of March next year in an attempt to reach a settlement. If a settlement is not reached, the case will resume in Melbourne’s Federal Court on 10th March 2015, so the Champagne Jayne case on hold.

The CIVChas been seeking to demonstrate that by using the business name Champagne Jayne, Rachel Jayne Powell has deceived her clients at her Champagne tastings and social media posts by referring to other sparkling wines, thereby tarnishing the Champagne brand.
 
Ms Powell has denied misleading her clients and presented evidence showing that she has always clearly distinguished between Champagne and sparkling wines from other regions of France and other parts of the world. She has argued that it is necessary to discuss and taste other sparkling wines in order to ensure that, while vigorously promoting the Champagne brand, she must also show it in the context of the diverse category of sparkling wines, in part to add to her credibility as a Champagne expert.
The accusation that Ms Powell has tarnished the Champagne brand as Champagne Jayne is somewhat difficult to understand given that she has been honoured with the title Dame Chevalier by the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne, the official fraternity of the major champagne brands, authored an award winning book entitled ‘Great, Grand & Famous Champagnes: Behind the Bubbles’ and been named International Champagne Educator of the Year 2012 by Harper’s Magazine.
In a rather one-sided battle, the action of the CIVC, which has formidable financial resources, a large team of lawyers and well-known for litigation to protect the Champagne brand, has placed Ms Powell, a sole trader with a turnover believed to be less than $100,000 per year, in a precarious financial situation and could force her into bankruptcy. 
As part of the agreement to attempt to reach a settlement Ms Powell is forbidden from communicating with journalists and “other third parties” about the case and is unable to comment. 

Graeme's reflection on the case:
'On reflection, I am wondering why the CIVC has chosen to attack and destroy Jayne Powell’s reputation and business rather than take advantage of her knowledge of Champagne, her ability to educate wine consumers about Champagne and her impressive credentials. I have no doubt that as Champagne Jayne, Ms Powell has had a positive impact on the Champagne brand in both Australia and the UK. Why not work with her rather than against her? In this way both sides would be winners.'

Jim's comment:
I entirely agree with Graeme's measured reflection on this case. I cannot imagine that their apparently single-minded pursuit of Champagne Jayne has won the Champenois many friends. Instead I suspect that for many in the wine trade the CIVC and by extension all Champagne producers this pursuit has shown them as cold hearted bullies prepared to crush one of their friends and advocates. Whether this reprensible and thuggish behaviour has a reasonance outside the wine trade is another question.
 
I wonder who instigated this offer of mediation? Did Champagne (CIVC) blink I wonder? Did they decide that they hadn't landed a KO blow on Champagne Jayne and could lose the case? It is surely likely that if Jayne Powell had offered mediation the CIVC would have taken this as an admission of defeat.

Back in March 2014 the court had ordered mediation but it proved unsuccessful. I've no idea of what was offered but I suspect that the CIVC played hardball as they have through out this case. It would have been in Jayne's interest to find an honourable compromise. Hopefully the mediation in March 2015 will be meaningful and a solution will be found.

Many thanks once again to Graeme for his fine reporting on the case.


  







Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Fizzical battle – Day Three – Round 3 : CIVC try to KO Champagne Jayne





Graeme Lofts reports from the Federal Court in Melbourne where Jayne Powell 'Champagne Jayne' spent a long day in the witness box.



'Champagne Jayne fights back 
During the third day of the Federal Court hearing in Melbourne in which sole trader and champagne expert Rachel Jayne Powell, aka Champagne Jayne has been taken on by the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), the protector of the exclusivity of the Champagne brand,  Ms Powell denied that she is misleading Australian consumers into believing that Australian sparkling wines were in fact Champagnes.
During cross examination of Ms Powell by the CIVC’s barrister a small selection of video clips of champagne tasting functions presented by her in the name of Champagne Jayne was shown. In each case presented, the function commenced with a blind tasting of an Australian sparkling wine. The CIVC’s view is that in doing this Ms Powell is promoting wines other than Champagne as well as causing those attending the functions to confuse Australian sparkling wine with Champagne.
Ms Powell argued that she opens some events with a blind tasting of an Australian sparkling before presenting a range of champagnes to maintain her credibility by showing that Champagnes are a unique and special category of sparkling wines and to highlight the different qualities of sparkling wines produced in different regions of the world.  Ms Powell vehemently denied that by doing this she caused confusion between Champagne and other sparkling wines.  Further video evidence presented later by Ms Powell’s barrister showed her clearly distinguishing between Champagne and other sparkling wines at such events.
Images on Champagne Jayne’s website and social media pages of bottles of champagne, Australian sparkling wine and sparkling wines from other French or European regions were shown by the CIVC’s barrister, who questioned how those viewing the images would know which were Champagne and which were not. In response Ms Powell pointed out that those that were Champagne had the word ‘Champagne’ clearly printed on the bottle label. Those that were not champagne did not have the word ‘Champagne’ on the label and in most cases had the region or country of origin printed on the label, for example; Yarra Valley, Tasmania, Product of England. She saw no reason for confusion.
Ms Powell was also accused of promoting one particular Tasmanian sparkling wine by using it on several occasions in a blind tasting as a segue into the tasting and discussion of Champagnes. Ms Powell denied that she was promoting that particular wine and was merely using it to demonstrate that there is more to a sparkling wine than its label. She believes that characteristics of sparkling wines are products of terroir and the skill and methods of the winemaker. And of course, anyone who knows Champagne Jayne knows that she believes that there is no better sparkling wine than Champagne.
Champagne Jayne’s opponents suggested that that many Australians, including many of those who attend functions at which she presents and who follow her on social media believe that all sparkling wines were Champagne and would be easily confused when she presented an Australian sparkling wine in addition to several different Champagnes. Ms Powell disputed this, pointing out that most, if not all of those who pay to attend her Champagne events, visit her website and follow her on social media are very much aware that the label ‘Champagne’ only refers to sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region. She takes delight in knowing that the few who are not aware of the exclusivity of Champagne to the Champagne region of France will become aware of it as a result of her presentations and posts.
 
Following the allegation that Ms Powell’s use of the word ‘ambassador’ on her website suggests that she is an official representative of the Champagne brand, she explained that she had already done her best to remove the word from the site and undertook to remove any remaining instances of its use.
The hearing moves into its last day tomorrow, with final submissions from lawyers of the CIVC and Ms Powell. A decision is expected early in the New Year.'
My grateful thanks again to Graeme for his excellent report. 

The report on Day One is here and Day Two here