Russia to insist that imported Champagne be labelled as "French Sparkling Wine".

File this one under "you couldn't make it up!"

Russians may lose access to some brands of fine French champagne after a change in regulations required them to be classified as mere sparkling wine. Winemakers in the Champagne region were reportedly unamused.

The stated reason was a change in the regulations of the alcohol market, which was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on Friday. It includes removing the word ‘champagne’ from the name of the category for sparkling wines and champagne.

According to the Kremlin-controlled media outlet RT, the "looming trouble" in the top sector of the Russian wine market was first reported by the business news outlet RBK, which obtained a letter sent by a distributor of the French luxury product company LVMH. Moet Hennessy Distribution Rus informed its clients that it had suspended deliveries of all sparkling wines to the country.

Moet Hennessy Russia said the amendment forces recertification of champagne wines and that winemakers in the French province which gave its name to the product “have not confirmed” that they will agree to the move.

The head of a leading monitor of the Russian alcohol market commented to RBK that the distributor seemed to erroneously interpret the new law as a challenge to the international brand. The French trademark ‘champagne’ is a protected designation, like Brie cheese and Morteau sausages. “Our law cannot cancel that, it’s not under its jurisdiction,” Vadim Drobiz of the CIFRA group said.

The monitor said that Russia imports around 50 million liters of sparkling wines annually, with 13% coming from France. LVMH’s share is relatively small, around 2%, so if the company refuses to deliver champagne to Russia, “members of the elite will have Italian Prosecco and Spanish Cava in their glasses when posing for photos,” he said.

Leonid Popovich, the head of the Russian Union of Grape-growers and Winemakers, dismissed the French winemakers position, saying “If you don’t want to supply it, don’t. Russia has sparkling wines that are no worse in quality, taste and aroma, and our consumers won’t be lacking.”

Russian 'Shampanskoye', which dates from the Soviet era, is a cheap carbonated white wine, very thin, and made mostly from Chardonnay and Aligoté grapes. It generally has a plastic stopper instead of a cork, and is often drunk directly from the bottle.

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