Russia Amends Legislation Affecting Foreign Champagne and Cognac Producers

Jul 29 2021 - 09:57

Amendments to the Russian law on state regulation of production and turnover of alcoholic products and the law on wine trade were published and immediately entered into force on July 6, 2021, significantly affecting the interests of champagne and cognac producers exporting their products to Russia.

The main amendment, which sparked a big public outcry, was the deletion of the term ‘shampanskoye’ (‘champagne’ in Russian) and the introduction of the term ‘Russian shampanskoye’. While wines from the Champagne region of France retain the exclusive right to use the name ‘champagne’ in Latin characters on the main label, under the amendments they can no longer use the term ‘shampanskoye’ in Cyrillic characters on the back label. Instead, they should use the term ‘sparkling wine’. Only Russian sparkling wines are now allowed to use the term ‘Russian shampanskoye’.

Additionally, the law on wine trade was supplemented with definitions of ‘konyak’ (‘cognaс’ in Russian) and ‘Russian konyak’, with the latter referring to ‘a cognac’ completely made from grapes cultivated in Russia. According to the amendments, after a transition period of seven years, the name ‘cognac’ will only be used for brandies produced in Russia.

The dispute between Russia and France over the use of brand names ‘champagne’ and ‘cognac’ is a longstanding one. ‘Shampanskoye’ or specifically ‘Sovetskoye Shampanskoye’ (‘Soviet champagne’ in Russian) has been a generic brand of sparkling wine produced in the Soviet Union and successor states since the 1930s. In the late 1980s, France started arguing against the USSR manufacturers’ use of such labels to refer to sparkling wine not made in the Champagne region, and in 1996 Russia seemingly agreed to stop using the term ‘champagne’ for local sparkling wines and considered abolishing the Cyrillic equivalents for ‘champagne’ and ‘cognac’. However, this never became a reality. In 2017, France even considered lifting its economic sanctions against Russia if the country stopped using ‘champagne’ and ‘cognac’ in Cyrillic. Draft laws excluding ‘shampanskoye’ and ‘konyak’ have been discussed in Russia since 2016, so these recent amendments protecting the rights of Russian winemakers and legalizing the use of ‘Russian shampanskoye’ have come as a surprise.

In response to the recent developments, Comité Champagne, the trade association representing the interests of Champagne producers and Champagne Houses, stated that as a result of the amendments the Russian consumers will not be provided with clear and transparent information on the origin and characteristics of wines and that the Comité Champagne regrets that the new law calls into question more than twenty years of bilateral discussions between France and Russia on the protection of designations of origin.

By: Tatyana Kulikova

For more information, please contact Tatyana Kulikova at our Russia office.

Sources: Russian Gazette online newspaper, Comité Champagne website

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