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Semi-generic is a legal term used by the BATF to refer to wine designations that have essentially no meaning. The majority of these were taken from famous European wine-producing regions but wines sold in the U.S. labeled with them have little or no relation to their namesakes. Sometimes the color is not even the same. With the popularization of varietal[?] labeling in the last twenty years of the twentieth century, these names have fallen somewhat out of use in the U.S. They are typically only used on inexpensive jug wines, although there are exceptions.

The continued use of these names is a bone of contention both inside and and outside the U.S. The European Union has, through a series of trade agreements, managed to protect most of these names in its major export markets. However, the U.S. has been very reluctant to forbid their use internally. While some wine lovers and professionals feel the use is dishonest, wineries feel they have established the terms as brands in their own right. Korbel has been producing sparkling wine labeled "Champagne" since the 1890s, and refuses for reasons of tradition to refrain from using that word on their label.

Some U.S. states have laws which restrict or prohibit the use of these names for locally produced wines.

From 27 CFR 4.24, the following is a list of semi-generics:

These names can refer to any grape wine but some have become associated with a given style, which is noted.

  • Burgundy - Generic red wine, for example Gallo[?]'s Hearty Burgundy. Named after French Burgundy.
  • Claret - Also generic red wine, named after Claret[?], the British term for French red Bordeaux.
  • Chablis - Generic white wine, named after Chablis[?].
  • Chianti - Generic red, named after Italy's Chianti.
  • Malaga - Unsure of typical style, probably named after Malaga.
  • Moselle - Generic sweet white, after Germany's Mosel River[?] wines (although oddly using the French spelling.
  • Rhine Wine (syn. Hock) - Generic sweet white, after Germany's Rhine River. Hock is named after Hochheim.
  • Sauterne - White or pink, see Sauterne.
  • Haut Sauterne - Same as above.
  • Tokay - Generic white, named after Hungary's Tokaji.

These names have at least some restriction on what kind of wine they can be. The legal restriction is listed first, followed by the original term.

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