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Dispatches

Christmas trees, by the numbers; Alabama’s despot depot; spreading the word about Burgundy’s mustard; New Zealand goes global; the sun sets on a Samoan claim to fame

BEAUNE, FRANCE
Spreading the Word

Burgundy’s mustard producers fight to protect their name

As any techie snatching up web addresses in the Wild West days of the Internet would’ve told you, registering a domain name early is an important branding step. It’s too bad the mustard makers of Burgundy (an area that includes Dijon) weren’t hip to that seven centuries ago. While product names like “Champagne” and “Camembert” are protected by E.U. laws that prohibit their use outside their namesake regions, Burgundy’s spicy wares have long lacked such shelter. Given the area’s history with mustard — in 1336 the Duke of Burgundy held a party at which his guests wolfed down 55 gallons of it — it’s a surprise that Burgundy didn’t petition to protect one of its most famous products until recently.

The lapse certainly wasn’t caused by producers’ inattention to detail. At La Moutarderie Fallot in Beaune, just south of Dijon, millstones are still used to grind mustard seeds into a thick paste. The factory stands on the same patch of land it did in 1840, when the property was chosen for its good water and proximity to a rail line.

Nevertheless, imitators abound. “The term ‘Dijon mustard’ is used everywhere,” says Marc Désarménien, Fallot’s third-generation owner. “It’s too late now.”

But while “Dijon” may belong to the world, in 2006 an association of producers successfully petitioned to protect the name “Moutarde de Bourgogne.” The protection comes with a long list of requirements — for example, the seeds used in production must be grown and stored in Burgundy — and it seems to be having an effect. This year is the first in decades in which Fallot, which also makes non–Moutarde de Bourgogne products, will use more mustard seeds from Burgundy than from Canada.

Beyond that, though, little has changed, says Nathalie Désarménien, Marc’s wife, standing at a window and looking down at the factory’s single loading dock as jars are carried onto a truck. “We are proud to make mustard like our fathers made mustard.” — JOSHUA SAUL

ILLUSTRATION BY PETER OUMANSKI

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