A new labeling law in Russia has the French Champagne industry scrambling to defend itself, with claims the prestigious appellation is being robbed of its exclusive intellectual property.
Signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 2, the legislation dictates that non-Russian producers are ordered to include the words “sparkling wine” on all bottles. The distinction must be added to back labels, though the products can still be marked Champagne on the front.
French Champagne houses were angered by the law and halted sales when the announcement was made, with some threats to stop exporting to the country altogether. After pausing to adjust labels that complied with the new regulations, luxury group LVMH resumed shipments, according to The Guardian.
The new law also dictates that only Russian sparkling wine producers will be allowed to label Shampanskoye (Russian for Champagne). The decision counters an announcement in 2011 that producers would stop using the “Soviet Champagne” name.
More recently, however, the government spent billions of rubles strengthening the Crimean wine region. The new law is likely intended to boost sales and support local producers.
The history of sparkling wine in the region reveals the inherent national pride at the heart of the matter. Stalin’s plan to demonstrate imminent prosperity and equality to the western world by mass-producing bottles of bubbly was arguably a failure in terms of quality, but the marketing campaign was a resounding success. Sovetskoye Shampanskoye became the beverage of choice for celebrations and big city adventures in Russia.
As the trade group has expressed through its litigious actions over the years, the Comité Champagne vehemently opposes any attempts by producers outside of the region to use the name for marketing purposes. The Committee is “analyzing the details and consequences of this law,” according to a press release. Co-chairs Maxime Toubart and Jean-Marie Barillère said in the statement that “depriving the people of Champagne of the right to use the name is scandalous.”
While protected by international law in 120 countries, a loophole dating back more than a century allows a handful of producers in the U.S. to appropriate the name, and now Russia is taking on the idea that Champagne only comes from Champagne.