At the risk of oversimplifying generations of geopolitics, Russia has always been a bit of a rabble-rouser. Sometimes, those actions have serious ramifications — like when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 against the will of the international community. But other times, Russia seems to be acting almost purely as an agitator — like on Friday, when President Vladimir Putin signed a new law decreeing that only Russian sparkling wines can be labelled as Champagne.


As possibly France‘s most famous appellation, people sometimes debate when “Champagne” should be capitalised or not. But under Russia’s new rule, don’t call that French stuff “Shampanskoye” — the Russian word for “Champagne” — at all. Instead, imports from France must simply bear the words “sparkling wine.” If you want to call your fizz “Shampanskoye,” it has to be produced on Russian soil.


Russian Champagne
Credit: Anthony DELANOIX/ Unsplash

Related: 5 Wine Regions To Visit That Are Not In France


On Saturday, Moët Hennessy threatened to stop sending their bubbly to Russia altogether, according to The Guardian; however, by Monday, the producer was reportedly shipping in bottles with fresh “sparkling wine” labels, hoping to maintain their 1 million litre share of the 6.5 million litres of actual Champagne Russia imports every year. “The Moët Hennessy champagne houses have always respected the law in place wherever they operate and will restart deliveries as soon as it is able to make the [label] changes,” they were quoted as saying.


Still, the Comité Champagne — which promotes the interests of Champagne worldwide — was understandably not happy, emphasising that not only was Russia coopting the “Champagne” label for their own use, but also stripping it from products that actually originate in an area called Champagne. “Depriving the people of Champagne the right to use their name is scandalous. It’s our common heritage and the apple of our eye,” Maxime Toubart and Jean-Marie Barillère, co-presidents of the organisation, stated. “The Champagne name is protected in more than 120 countries.”


So why not in Russia? Well, bringing the discussion full circle, media speculation is that the move is intended to boost the wine industry in Crimea — an area known for its sparkling wine production. French newspaper Le Monde also reportedly suggested that move could be both personally and financially motivated, pointing out that billionaire Yuri Kovalchuk, a close Putin associate, owns wineries in the region.


This story first appeared on


(Main and Feature Image Credit: Alexander Nemenov / Contributor/Getty Images)


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