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Wine of the week: Cristalino Brut NV

Wine of the week: Cristalino Brut NVSometimes, one forgets old friends. Not intentionally, of course, but because of the press of business and the rush of life. There are new wines to try and more posts to write, and one sometimes takes things like the Cristalino for granted.

For which I’m sorry. It has been two years since I reviewed Cristalino, the Spanish sparking wine known as cava, and that post was more a back-handed slap at the lawsuit that made it change its name because a federal judge ruled that consumers might confuse it with the $150 Cristal, which was French and Champagne. (Its new legal name is Jaume Serra Cristalino, which I refuse to use.)

This was one of the first wines I ever reviewed professionally, back in my newspaper days, and it has never – and I mean never – let me down. The first bottle I opened for this review was flat (no doubt sitting on a shelf in a hot warehouse too long), but was still quite drinkable.

Cristalino ($7, purchased) is everything a cheap wine should be and too often isn’t – varietally correct and well made, with distinct flavors and character. Look for terrific bubbles, a little bit of green apple fruit, and even a sort of mineral finish. Yes, it’s simple, but it’s also not too much of one thing or not enough of another, an incredible achievement for a $7 wine.

It will take its rightful place in the 2013 $10 Hall of Fame in January, and I will drink more of it this holiday season and recommend it for Thanksgiving. Because it’s always good to say hello to an old pal.

Wineries aren’t the only ones who are silly about trademarks

Regular visitors here will remember the Wine Curmudgeon’s pique when Cristalino lost a lawsuit and had to re-do its label because the company that owns Cristal (and which will never be named on the blog) said consumers would be confused when choosing between a $7 Spanish cava and a $200 luxury Champagne.

Sadly, that foolishness is not relegated to the wine business. Apple, which sometimes makes Microsoft seem sweet and lovable, has decided that the term “app store” belongs to Apple (and is engaged in a lawsuit with Microsoft over the term that we can only hope will be Dickensian in length). It has issued a cease and desist letter to a small company that makes software for home servers because the small company has what it calls an app store. Apple’s lawyers wrote that “Amahi’s use of the title ‘App Store’ improperly incorporates” Apple’s trademark of “app store” and is likely to confuse consumers.

The lesson here? If you’re going to open a wine store on the Internet, you’d better find another name for it. Someone, somewhere, has probably trademarked “wine store” and has lawyers willing and eager to start the paperwork on a lawsuit.

Update: The Cristalino lawsuit

Cristalino lawsuit What do you call Cristalino, the Spanish sparkling wine, after a federal court judge says that you can’t call it Cristalino?

What happens if you run a picture of the old Cristalino bottle, like the one on the left, after a federal court judge says you shouldn’t?

Who would have thought that the Wine Curmudgeon needed an attorney to write about $10 wine? But that appears to be the case these days.

Regular visitors will remember that, last August, the company that owns Cristal (and which will never be mentioned on the blog) won a judgment in U.S. federal court in Minneapolis. Cristal’s owner said there was evidence that consumers could be confused between the two brands, even though Cristal sells for hundreds of dollars and Cristalino doesn’t, and they are rarely on sale in the same location. A federal court judge agreed, and ordered Cristalino to redesign and re-label its bottle, with a disclaimer that says Cristalino isn’t affiliated with Cristal or The Company That Will Not be Named.

Fast forward to last week, when I got a letter from Cristalino. It outlined the results of the lawsuit, and asked anyone writing about their wine to:

• Change all old references on their blogs and sites from Cristalino to the new name.

• Destroy any old bottle shots or labels that we might have.

• Replace any old bottle shots or labels with new bottle shots or labels.

You will have noticed that I did not list the new name. A friend of mine suggested that I start using the phrase, “Cristalino, a great little sparkling cava from Spain, not to be confused with Cristal, a vastly overpriced French Champagne.” Which has some merit.

I do know I’m not going to change any references or pictures on the blog. It irritates me no end that I’m being asked to waste my time so a company that sells over-priced wine can get richer. And I do have certain Constitutional rights when it comes to fair comment about news, based on several Supreme Court decisions, including New York Times v. Sullivan. But since it has been a few years since my media law class, I consulted an attorney.

It was actually two attorneys, who own perhaps my favorite wine shop in Dallas (though they asked not to be named, since this isn’t their area of practice — and they emphasized that they were not giving me legal advice). Their thoughts: That I was probably safe from retribution from either Cristalino or The Company That Will Not be Named. “However,” said one, “if you continue to just say ‘Cristalino’ and they decide to sue you for an injunction, you may well end up wishing you had complied with the attached letter. The odds of that happening? Pretty slim.”

In which case, I’ll have another blog post, no doubt asking for money for my legal defense fund.

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