France's champagne industry group on Monday blasted a new Russian law forcing foreign champagne producers to add a "sparkling wine" reference to their bottles and called for champagne exports to Russia to be halted.
The new law, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, requires all foreign producers of sparkling wine to describe their product as such on the label on the back of the bottle – though not on the front – while makers of Russian "shampanskoye" may continue to use that term alone.
The French champagne industry group called on its members to halt all shipments to Russia for the time being and said the name "champagne", which refers to the region in France the drink comes from, had legal protection in 120 countries.
"The Champagne Committee deplores the fact that this legislation does not ensure that Russian consumers have clear and transparent information about the origins and characteristics of wine," group co-presidents Maxime Toubart and Jean-Marie Barillère said in a statement.
French Trade Minister Franck Riester said he was tracking the new Russian law closely, in contact with the wine industry and France's European partners.
"We will unfailingly support our producers and French excellence," he said on Twitter.
'The real champagne is made in the Champagne region'
French producers are fiercely protective of the AOC, or Controlled Appellation of Origin, that is supposed to give them exclusive use of the word in countries that adhere to the Lisbon Agreement on distinctive geographical indications.
But Russia is not a signatory, and the new law signed by Putin forbids the use of the Russian translation, "shampanskoye", on imported bottles.
Moët Hennessy, the LVMH-owned French maker of Veuve Clicquot and Dom Pérignon champagnes, said on Sunday it would begin adding the designation "sparkling wine" to the back of bottles destined for Russia to comply with the law.
Shares in Russian sparkling wine maker Abrau-Durso were up in early trading Monday.
Abrau-Durso president Pavel Titov told FRANCE 24's sister radio station, Radio France Internationale (RFI), on Saturday that his firm does not have sparkling wines that would be called "champagne" in its portfolio and said he hoped the issue would be resolved in favour of global norms and standards.
"It is very important to protect the Russian wines on our market. But the legislation must be reasonable and not contradict common sense ... I have no doubts that the real champagne is made in the Champagne region of France," he said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)