France and Russia are fighting over who calls Champagne … ‘Champagne’: NPR

Russian President Vladimir Putin is holding a glass of Soviet champagne during a Kremlin ceremony in 2017. A new Russian law says only Russian sparkling wine may be sold in Russia as “champagne”.

Pavel Golovkin / AP


hide caption

change caption

Pavel Golovkin / AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin is holding a glass of Soviet champagne during a Kremlin ceremony in 2017. A new Russian law says only Russian sparkling wine may be sold in Russia as “champagne”.

Pavel Golovkin / AP

EPERNAY, France – In a cool windowless cellar in this provincial French town, workers stack bottles bubbling. Not just something bubbling, though real champagne, which, thanks to a special protected status, can only be carried out in the Champagne region of eastern France.

“A lot of people want to use the name,” says Marie Genand, a lawyer for The Champagne Committee, which oversees the production and trade of the Champagne region’s 15,000 wine producers.

But in a deft display of soft power, a world leader puts centuries of French tradition to the test.

In early July, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law reserving the use of the word champagne in the Russian market for sparkling wines produced in Russia.

Imported French champagne can no longer be called … champagne.

“We were shocked,” Genand said of the new Russian law.

But for now, there are many French champagne producers giving up.

Moët Hennessy, arguably the most recognizable French champagne house, said it has already spent hundreds of thousands of euros on change its labels to comply with the new Russian law.

A sign in the French city of Epernay proclaims it “the capital of Champagne”.

Rebecca Rosman / NPR


hide caption

change caption

Rebecca Rosman / NPR

A sign in the French city of Epernay proclaims it “the capital of Champagne”.

Rebecca Rosman / NPR

Others, like fifth-generation champagne producer Marie Collard, are insecure.

“I can understand that the Russians want to defend their own sparkling wine,” Collard said. “But the word champagne belongs to this region, we keep it close to our heart.”

She and her husband started their own brand, Collard-Picard, in 1996.

Today, they produce more than 150,000 bottles a year with a good clientele in Russia.

But she is not ready to change her labels, even if it means losing business.

“It’s also about respecting our ancestors,” Collard said. “If the name champagne has any value today, it is because we have incredibly strict production rules in Champagne that cannot be compared to vineyards elsewhere.”

29-year-old Rachel Hardy from Belgium tastes a flight with Collard’s champagne for her upcoming wedding as she overhears the conversation and nods eagerly in agreement.

“You need the soil, you need the climate, you need people who work and learn to work with the grapes for ages from their parents and grandparents!” Hardy said. “You can not just decide to make champagne outside of Champagne, it’s not your call.”

Marie Collard from the Champard-Picard champagne house in her retail store in Epernay, France. Collard has not yet decided whether she will remove the word “champagne” from her labels to sell the bubble in Russia.

Rebecca Rosman / NPR


hide caption

change caption

Rebecca Rosman / NPR

Marie Collard from the Champard-Picard champagne house in her retail store in Epernay, France. Collard has not yet decided whether she will remove the word “champagne” from her labels to sell the bubble in Russia.

Rebecca Rosman / NPR

But Hardy also admits she’s a little curious about the Russian version.

The Russians are just as proud of their product as, even though the Soviet Union is long gone, it is still sold as “Soviet champagne. “

The idea for the Kremlin champagne dates back to the days of Joseph Stalin, who in 1936 traded in to supply sparkling wine to the Soviet masses, dramatically increasing local production to millions of bottles a year.

But could a sparkling wine with a name other than champagne still taste just as sweet?

The French hope the Kremlin will revise its new labeling law.

Genand with Comité Champagne says her organization hopes to reach some compromise with Moscow in the near future.

“We are working with Champenois, the French government and other politicians to first get the law suspended and try to discuss with the Russian parties to get something else,” Genand said.

Something she hopes will end with a friendly toast.

Give a Comment