Page last updated at 15:17 GMT, Saturday, 5 April 2008 16:17 UK

Swiss town fights Champagne ban

A forklift draped in a French flag knocked over the village sign

A Swiss village has vowed to continue fighting to keep using its name - Champagne - on local wine.

In a traditional Swiss open-air vote, members of the community agreed to fight an attempt to stop them using the name by the French wine-growing area.

Under trade laws, the use of the name is limited to products from the French region famous for its sparkling wine.

Under a deal between the Swiss and the EU, the village was supposed to stop using the name in 2004.

Loss of identity

"In this village we no longer have the right to use our own name," Thomas Bindschedler, spokesman of the village action committee, told the meeting.

"In a market where consumers are increasingly concerned with the accountability of producers, that is fatal."

A mechanical excavator covered with a French flag dug out the sign bearing the name Champagne at the entrance of the village in a symbolic protest at the community's loss of identity.

Mr Bindschedler said the village used to sell 110,000 bottles of wine a year, but that fell to 32,000 last year after the wine was sold in bottles that did not say where they were produced, the Reuters news agency reported.

The Swiss protest comes after a Parisian bakery was legally challenged over selling biscuits labelled "Champagne recipe".

Villagers said the name of the settlement had been Champagne since 885 and the first records of wine being grown in the village dated back as far as 1657, Reuters reported.

Mr Bindschedler said the village did not want to stop sparkling wine makers in France from using the Champagne moniker.

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