The makers of Jack Daniel’s whiskey have launched legal action against one of France’s most celebrated châteaux, Chambord, in a bid to stop it using its own name on wine it plans to produce.
The Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corporation is challenging the right of the 16th century Loire Valley château to call its wine ‘Chambord’ on the grounds that the US firm has produced a liqueur of the same name for more than a decade.
The château only set up a vineyard three years ago as part of efforts to become self-funding. It is to produce its first ‘Clos de Chambord’ and ‘IGP Chambord’ wines this autumn.
Jean d’Haussonville, director of the château built by King Francis I, is outraged at the American company’s action.
“It is unimaginable that a liqueur could prevent us from using the brand of our national heritage for our own products,” said Mr d’Haussonville.
Chambord Liqueur, made from raspberries, is modelled on a beverage produced in the Loire Valley in the 17th century.
The ‘royal liqueur’ is now made at Cour-Cheverny, near Chambord, where Brown-Forman employs about 20 people.
“Their website implies that it is made at Chambord, which is false,” Mr d’Haussonville said.
Brown-Forman says it acquired ownership of the Chambord product brand “many years ago”. Mr d’Haussonville argues that the American firm should not be allowed exclusive rights to a name that carries historical significance in France.
“The fight for Chambord is a fight for our entire nation,” he said.
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“Across the world, companies are able to take a name that plays a significant role in French heritage, and exploit it.”
Chambord, the largest and best-known of the Loire châteaux, attracts tourists from across the world with its distinctive French Renaissance architecture.
In December, President Emmanuel Macron celebrated his 40th birthday at a lodge 200 yards from the château, which he visited with his guests.
The case is to be heard by the high court of Paris, but the château and the corporation are now negotiating in the hope of reaching an out-of-court settlement.
Chambord is said to be hoping to obtain financial compensation from Brown-Forman for the use of its name.
However, last month the château lost a legal battle with the makers of Kronenbourg beer, which it alleged had used photographs of Chambord in a 2010 advertising campaign without its permission.
A court in Nantes, western France, rejected the château’s demand for Kronenbourg to pay it more than £220,000, but Mr d’Haussonville argues that the law has changed since 2010, with the addition of the ‘Chambord amendment’ to a French law on heritage in 2016, strengthening the brand protection of historic sites.
He said: “Why should we not get royalties on the use of our name, given that these products benefit from our image and that image is maintained by the French taxpayer?”