Korbel Champagne Cellars

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Korbel winery in Sonoma County.

Korbel Champagne Cellars is a winery based in Guerneville, California. Since 1882, Korbel has primarily manufactured sparkling wine, claiming to use the méthode champenoise process. In this process, sparkling wine is fermented inside the same bottle from which it is served. The company is a division of F. Korbel Brothers, Inc., and also makes brandy and still wine.

F. Korbel & Bros. is a private company owned and operated by the Heck family. Brown-Forman distributes "Korbel California Champagne" widely in the US [1]


Korbel was founded in 1882 by three Czechoslovak brothers named Korbel. It was purchased by Adolph Heck in 1954.[2] Heck's son, Gary, took over in 1984, and over time increased production from 150,000 to 1.3 million cases per year, making Korbel the twelfth largest wine producer in the United States as of 2011.[2]

Use of "champagne" on labels[edit]

Korbel California champagne.
Korbel Champagne on a shelf at the Korbel Champagne Cellars
Korbel Champagne on a shelf at the Korbel Champagne Cellars

On its website, Korbel claims that they are "producers of fine California méthode champenoise champagnes for 137 years".[3] Under European Union (EU) law, only wine from France's Champagne wine region may use the terms “Champagne" or “méthode champenoise” on the wine label. However, Korbel does not use the full méthode champenoise.[citation needed]

A "grandfathering" exception was made for Korbel. This is because of the 2005 agreement between the US and the EU, which allows producers to continue using the terms Champagne, Chablis, Sherry, and other "semi-generic names" on their labels if they were already using those names before the agreement. [4] Korbel uses the oxymoronic term "California champagne" on the label. (Because of the same law, E & J Gallo's André California champagne and Cook's California champagne also can legally use "champagne.")[citation needed]

In addition to the US-EU agreement, US law [5] also makes it possible for Korbel to use phrases like "California champagne" and "Russian River Valley champagne" on some of its labels.[citation needed]

Korbel-marketed wines include Kenwood, Valley of the Moon, Lake Sonoma Winery, and Pininfarina.[citation needed]


Korbel sparkling wines have been served at six United States presidential inaugurations.[2] It was also one of the wines served on January 20, 2009, at the Congressional Inaugural Luncheon for U.S. President Barack Obama.[6]

Korbel's brandy has a particularly strong following in the State of Wisconsin, where over 50% of Korbel's brandy production is consumed.[7]


  1. ^ "Brown-Forman Annual Report 2008"
  2. ^ a b c Kevin Fagan (2009-08-30). "Family squabble tarnishes Korbel wine empire". San Francisco Chronicle.
  3. ^ Our Champagnes Korbel corporate website
  4. ^ Vinepair Malin, Joshua. "The 100-Year-Old Loophole That Makes California Champagne Legal." Published June 29, 2015 Retrieved June 24, 2019
  5. ^ "USC 27cfr4.25 section 2"
  6. ^ Hulse, Carl (20 January 2009). "The Nation Awaits Its 44th President". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-20.
  7. ^ Snyder, Molly (6 March 2020). "Cheers! Wisconsinites are the top consumers of brandy in the U.S." On Milwaukee. Retrieved 2020-05-05.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°30′28″N 122°58′1″W / 38.50778°N 122.96694°W / 38.50778; -122.96694