Chateau Petrus left with sour taste after court’s wine name ruling
IT IS the ultimate status symbol for wine buffs and commands astronomical prices, but Petrus risks losing its cachet after a French court rejected its plea to retain exclusive rights to the hallowed name.
After a seven-year legal battle, the Bordeaux appeals court has ruled that the makers of a cheap, blended wine that sells for less than £10 a bottle can continue to use the name “Petrus”.
The court quashed a petition by Château Petrus, which produces the original Petrus, to force the makers of the humbler Petrus Lambertini to drop the word “Petrus” from their brand name on the grounds that it was misleading.
Petrus, known as the Rolls-Royce of clarets, is produced in Pomerol, the smallest and arguably the most prestigious of Bordeaux’s wine-growing regions.
A magnum of its 2015 vintage costs more than £5,000, and the average price of a bottle of Petrus exceeds £1,800. Unlike many other grands vins of Bordeaux, which also produce cheaper “second wines”, Petrus makes only one high-quality wine.
By contrast, Petrus Lambertini is an unassuming table wine made from grapes grown near Bordeaux.
The name “Petrus Lambertini Major Burdegalensis 1208”, registered as a trademark by producer CGM, refers to Bordeaux’s first mayor, who in 1208 refused to hand the keys of the city to besieging forces of Spain’s King of Castile.
The dispute began in 2011, when Petrus Lambertini was first marketed. Its labels showed “Petrus Lambertini” in large letters, with “Nº2” underneath.
Château Petrus argued that was misleading because consumers would think it was Petrus’s “second wine”, meaning a batch not quite good enough to be selected for the premium vintage.
Château Petrus accused CGM of “unfair and misleading commercial practices” after seeing an advertisement for “Petrus second wine”, posted online by a private individual who was in fact selling Petrus Lambertini.
Initially, a court upheld Château Petrus’s argument that there was a risk that consumers would confuse the two wines. It fined CGM and ordered it to halt sales under the brand name.
But the firm appealed and another court has now accepted that the two labels are “radically different”. It ruled that consumers could not fail to realise that Petrus Lambertini “is neither a Petrus nor a second Petrus wine”.
Stéphane Coureau, CGM’s director, welcomed the decision, saying Petrus Lambertini would soon be back on the shelves.
Elisabeth Jaubert, a spokesman for Château Petrus, said the company would launch a counter-appeal to a higher court.