Under the title “Putin spoils France’s vintners’ champagne mood“, I reported this summer on the dispute triggered by a new Russian law. According to this, the designation “Schampanskoye” should only be reserved for Russian wine houses. Reason of this amendment: the Russian viticulture is in the hands of Putin friends.
FRANCE (Paris) – In the French-Russian champagne dispute, France has negotiated a postponement until the end of the year. “This doesn’t settle everything, but we are determined to move forward in that time,” Franck Riester, associate minister for foreign trade, now told the press. The dispute was triggered by a new Russian law passed in July that had French Champagne winemakers seething.
According to it, the Russian designation “Schampanskoye” is to be reserved exclusively for Russian wine houses. French Champagne producers would no longer be allowed to print “Schampanskoye” in Cyrillic on the label. They would still be allowed to use “Champagne” in Latin script, but they would have to add “sparkling wine” in Cyrillic script on the back of the bottle.
Fight against commercial free riders
France’s Champagne winemakers have been using legal means to defend the protected designation of origin for decades. In the fight against free riders, the Champagne Comité achieved a victory in 2019 in Germany against Aldi, which had a “Champagne Sorbet” on offer (read more: “Aldi against Comité Champagne in Case Champagne Sorbet“). Likewise, the Comité won in Switzerland, where it had the Swiss village of Champagne, located on Lake Neuchâtel, banned from using the name Champagne for wine products produced there, based on EU law. That dispute came to an end in 2019 after more than a decade, unfortunately to the Swiss community’s disadvantage (read more: “Champagne village name not allowed on label“). In parallel, the Comité is also fighting against a Spanish tapas bar in Barcellono called “Champanillo”. Here, too, the French will prevail, especially because EU law prohibits not only a use, but also already the allusion to the designation of origin (read more: ECJ Advocate General: “Champagne designation protected from free-riding“).
The Schampanskoye problem
As an export market, Russia ranks only 15th for French champagne winemakers, with around two million of the 150 million bottles exported there each year. But the Russian upper class buys particularly “noble cuvées,” says the director general of the Champagne Comité, Charles Goemaere. The danger that wealthy Russians could “confuse” domestic cheap varieties with genuine champagne from France “probably” does not exist, says Goemaere.
The Champagne Committee had called for a temporary halt to exports to Russia after the law was announced. In September, the association spoke out in favor of resuming exports to ease the situation. At the moment, everything is running normally, though an end to the Schampanskoye dispute is far from in sight.