Chateau Petrus left with sour taste af­ter court’s wine name rul­ing

The Sunday Telegraph - - World news - By David Chazan in Paris

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.

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