Booze | July 7, 2021 10:50 am

In Russia, Champagne Is Taking on a Controversial New Meaning

A new law will ignore the geographic boundaries of France's most famous wine export

Moet Hennessy sparkling wines on sale in a supermarket. On July 2, 2021, President Vladimir Putin signed a new law allowing the term champagne to be used only for the sparkling wines produced in Russia and requiring all non-Russian producers, including the French, to add the sparkling wine label on the back of the bottles delivered to Russia. The French champagne maker Moet Hennessy suspended deliveries to Russia due to the new law, though later agreeing to add the sparkling wine label and to resume deliveries in compliance with Russias new legislation.
Moet Hennessy sparkling wines on sale in a Moscow supermarket
Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images

It’s not Champagne if it’s not produced in … Russia?

A controversial new Russian law has hurt the French wine industry and could cause customer confusion in two ways, as reported by VinePair: It forces non-Russian wine producers to include the words “sparkling wine” on their bottles, while only Russian sparkling wine producers can now label their bottles as Shampanskoye (Russian for Champagne).

According to The Guardian, what the Russians call Shampanskoye is a “post-USSR reincarnation” of a popular cheap sparkling drink created in the 1930s. What the rest of the world considers Champagne is an Appellation of Controlled Origin or AOC; since 1936, this geographical designation means that “Champagne [is] exclusively reserved for wines harvested and produced in Champagne.”

French officials are, unsurprisingly, not pleased. “Depriving the people of Champagne the right to use their name is scandalous. It’s our common heritage and the apple of our eyes,” said Maxime Toubart and Jean-Marie Barillère, co-presidents of the Comité Champagne, in a press release. “The Champagne name is protected in more than 120 countries.”

Actual (French) Champagne producer Moët Hennessy initially threatened to halt sales to Russia, but this week announced it would resume shipments.

The move by Russia is seen as a way to boost the Crimean wine region and revitalize local production.