It was Vladimir Putin himself who signed this astonishing decree. According to this addition to the law on grape-based spirits, only bubbly wine produced in Russia will now qualify as “champagne“on Russian territory. Sacrilege for the French luxury brands which produce in Champagne and which will have to attach a label”bubbly wine“in Cyrillic next to their original name …
The decision sounds all the more like a provocation as the amendment clearly indicates that Russian legislation will not take into account the protection of the French appellation “Champagne AOC”. However, this status is protected by the Interprofessional Committee for Champagne Wine, which is waging an endless battle all over the world to prevent ersatz products from proliferating.
French “capitulation” without a fight
On the front line, the French company Moët Hennessy had to stop its exports to Russia for a weekend. Forty-eight hours later, the company announced that it would resume normal activity, enough to revolt French Internet users who saw it as a capitulation to the Russian invader, an annexation of French champagne which would make that of Crimea seem trivial …
The reactions have, surprisingly, been so virulent on the Russian side, where Internet users have been particularly critical. The humor played a good part, suggesting to act in the same way to attribute the prestige of the German sedans to the Soviet Lada, or even, the victory of the Euro football by renaming the Russian team “Squadra Azzurra”. Some media have questioned their readers, “How would you react if France were to claim the name ‘vodka’?“In Ukraine, we saw there the symbol of a Europe which no longer knows how to block Russia.
In fact, exports are now almost at a standstill. French ministers have stepped up to the plate, ensuring to negotiate with the Russian authorities while French brands must start from scratch: this legislative change requires new product certification and new labeling.
The Russians are not fooled, however. The country has its own history of “bubbly wine“, linked to Crimea, land of vineyards. The most impressive story is that of”soviet champagne“, a sparkling wine that Stalin had created in the 1930s with the aim of making it accessible to everyone. Nicknamed”shampoo“By the Russians, this low-end bubbly wine is still as popular as ever. But no one would think of comparing it to Champagne from Champagne.
Russian champagne also has its “luxury” facet. There is no doubt that she will benefit from this situation. There is “Abrau-Durso”, whose shares have been on the rise since the Kremlin announcements. This had already been the case, last January, after Vladimir Putin, fond of viticulture, declared that he would see himself working in this company at the end of his political career.
And then there is “Novy svet”, a Crimean wine, owned by a longtime friend of the Russian president, the oligarch Yuri Kovalchouk. In Russia, the national priority always benefits someone close to the President.
Cognac and port too
The detail made less talk but this contested decree also affects the Portuguese port and French cognac: 100% of the grapes must have been harvested on Russian territory in order for alcohol to benefit from the image of these foreign appellations. What to leave bitter Armenia who had just bowed to the injunctions of Brussels, which demanded that it no longer use the appellation “cognac“. Armenian cognac is very famous in Russia and in the countries of the Caucasus; it will now have to compete with Russian without its name, itself illegally borrowed from France …
In a column published by the Novaïa Gazeta, political scientist Andrei Kolesnikov summed up the situation with irony: “We have to be the first everywhere, from Iskanders missiles to vaccines. We do not trust recognized world rankings, for example, in the field of higher education, and we strive to create our own, where our universities should naturally come in first place. This self-delusion is disturbing but the population must be convinced that Russia is the best. This mixture of inferiority complex and superiority syndrome ends in ridiculous victories on the champagne front . “