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News24.com | French champagne makers end Russia boycott despite label law


Russia has won the first round of a battle over what constitutes Champagne.
Photo: Getty Images

  • A lobby group representing the French Champagne industry decided to lift a boycott on shipments to Russia starting on 15 September.
  • French producers halted shipments to Russia in July after Vladimir Putin signed a new law, saying that the word Champagne or “shampanskoye” in Russian can only be used for Russian sparkling wines.
  • Luxury giant LVMH’s Moet Hennessy was among the French producers that halted shipments to Russia.

Russia has won the first round of a battle over what
constitutes Champagne after French producers agreed to resume exports and abide
by a controversial local rule on labelling.

The lobby representing the French Champagne industry decided
to lift a boycott on shipments to Russia starting on 15 September. Producers
agreed to modify the back labels on bottles to describe the contents as
sparkling wine, according to the co-head of the Comité Interprofessionnel du
Vin de Champagne.

“We’ve decided to invest in diplomacy to find a
solution,” Jean-Marie Barillère said in a phone interview. “The fight
is far from over, and it might be a long one.”

The French move comes even though Russia has given no
indication it will reverse a July law granting exclusive rights to the term “Shampanskoe”
– Russian for Champagne – for locally-made bottles of bubbly. The legislation
angered French Champagne producers, who are notoriously protective of the
geographic designation rooted in the north-eastern area where the grapes are
grown.

The CIVC lobby, whose motto is “Champagne only comes
from Champagne, France,” had expressed outrage at the Russian rule. At
least 95% of producers obeyed the boycott, according to Barillère, and the
outliers were only fulfilling pre-paid orders.

The reversal is aimed at “satisfying consumers in
Russia and not penalizing sales,” he said.

Luxury giant LVMH’s Moet Hennessy was among the producers
that halted shipments. Its brands include Dom Perignon, Ruinart, Moet &
Chandon and Krug.

Under the Russian rule, French producers are still allowed
to use the Latin characters of Champagne on the main label. But the bottles
must also say “sparkling wine” in Cyrillic characters on the back.

The French government expressed opposition to the Russian
law, with Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying he would consider
raising the issue at the World Trade Organization. The European Commission also
said it was evaluating whether the law infringes Russia’s commitments to the
WTO.

Russia ranks as the 15th biggest market by value for French
Champagne producers, according to CIVC data for 2020. The market is worth about
€35 million (588 Rmillion), compared with more than half a billion euros for
the U.S., the top export market.

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