Vladimir Putin has signed a new law decreeing that only champánskoe, the popular and affordable sparkling wines created in Soviet times as a way to democratize luxury, can now be labeled as champagne in Russia.
The sparkling foreign wines — including those from France’s Champagne region (northeast), protected by a controlled appellation of origin and made only from certain grape varieties and a specific maturation process — will be labeled and classified as “sparkling wines” in Russia.
Although the full content of the new legislation is still under examination, it appears to be the most significant usurpation of European drinks intellectual property orchestrated by a third country. An urgent action from the European Union would be needed in order to protect those quality products designations and European Union’s know-how.Irène Tolleret, Marie-Pierre Vedrenne
The rule amending the law on alcoholic beverages, initialed last Friday July 2nd, has caused indignation and astonishment in much of the champagne industry. Many stakeholders within the industry defend the controlled appellation of origin and insist that champagne only comes from the Champagne region, where the territory creates the right conditions for the wine, made only from varieties of chardonnay, pinot noir, meunier, arbane, petit meslier, pinot blanc or pinot gris, harvested by short pruning.
The association that brings together the French industry has declared its shock. It has asked producers to stop sending their wines to Russia until the new regulations are clarified. The name Champagne is protected in more than 120 countries. The Minister of Foreign Trade, Franck Riester, has remarked that his team is analyzing the implications of the new Russian law on the French wine sector.
The Champagne Committee deplores that this legislation does not ensure that Russian consumers have clear and transparent information on the origins and characteristics of the wine.Maxime Toubart and Jean-Marie Barillere
Moët Hennessy, part of the luxury goods group LVMH and responsible for brands such as Moët Chandon, Veuve Clicquot or Dom Perignon, has threatened to temporarily stop distribution in Russia, claiming that the labeling change would cost them thousands of euros. In a letter to its Russian partners published by the business daily Vedomosti, it explained that the new rule could force not only to change the labeling, but also to re-certify the wines. But for the time being it seems the big giant will be complying with the new decree.
Moët Hennessy champagne houses have always respected the law in force wherever they operate and will restart deliveries as soon as they can make the label changes.Moët Hennessy
The new rule, which is one more step in the latest Russian protectionist laws in the midst of a wave of Western sanctions against Moscow -which have already vetoed or restricted products such as Parmesan or Gouda cheese or Iberian ham-, and which seeks to promote local producers, has sparked criticism and alarm among many.