On July 3, 2021, bottles of Russian "Champagne” were seen in a small Moscow shop. Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images
Vladimir Putin's attack on French Champagne could be called Extra Brut in terms of geopolitical food fightings.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed Friday a law that prohibits foreign sparkling wine producers from using "Champagne", even if they are from France, the wine-growing region where the name is derived. The term will only be allowed to Russian-made shampanskoe wine.
France viewed the move as a serious affront. France has strict rules to protect its bubbly's name and reputation. On Monday, the main Champagne industry group in France called on all producers to stop exports to Russia until further notice.
"The people of Champagne are asking for French and European diplomacy in order to get this unacceptable law modified," says Maxime Toubart, co-president of the Champagne Committee.
It is a scandal to prevent Champagne's people from using Champagne's name in Cyrillic. This is our common heritage and our apple of the eye.
POLITICO was told by LVMHs Mot Hennessy that it will temporarily suspend Russian shipments "to allow us to assess the consequences of the new regulation."
French media suggest that Moscow's move could be part its efforts to revive the shampanskoe bubbly wine industry in its Soviet-era ancestral homeland of Crimea. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. This was in line with similar measures that worked in the country's favor: Moscow has banned imports of European cheeses as a response to Western sanctions over Ukraine. This ultimately gave Russia's cheese producers a significant boost.
Monday's 7.7 percent increase in stock value at Russian sparkling wine producer Abrau-Dursos was reported.
Moscow's decision to strike one of Europe's most valuable sectors comes after Germany and France rejected a proposal for a summit with Putin. Instead, the European Council imposed strict conditions on any possible warming of diplomatic relations.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin's press secretary, told reporters Monday that sparkling wine is "a difficult part of the economy. This is not a spot where fast money lives," hinting to Russia's desire for protection of its wine producers. It has been passed and must be implemented."
Barillre stated that he was surprised Russia would make such a decision and the committee asked Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Foreign Minister, to join them.
Although the French Embassy in Moscow refused to comment on the matter, Franck Riester (the country's junior trade minister) tweeted that Paris was "closely watching" the Russian law.
"Be assured: We will continue to support French excellence and producers. Riester wrote: Long live French champagne
The EU's lucrative system for geographical indications, which seeks to protect names of gourmet foods sold abroad, also covers French Champagne. Alexander Stavstev is the editor-in-chief at Russian industry news outlet Wine Retail Information Center. He estimates that the law could result in the modification of labels for some 20,000 wine brands.
A spokesperson for the European Commission told reporters Monday that the EU executive would do everything to "express our concern and disapproval" regarding the Russian legislation.
The spokesperson said that we will do all that is necessary to protect our rights, and would take the appropriate steps. She did not name concrete steps Brussels might take.
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