Renowned winemaker Moet Hennessy said Monday that its champagne shipments to Russia were suspended after President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Friday saying the term “champagne” is allowed to be used only for “Russian champagne.”
“These provisions lead to a temporary suspension of deliveries of products to assess the impact of this new law,” Moet-Hennessy spokeswoman Anne Catherine Grimal said, according to state news agency RIA-Novosti.
For most aficionados, a sparkling wine can be called champagne only if it comes from the region of France with that name and is made under certain regulations.
Since Soviet times, champagne — “shampanskoye” in Russian — has been used as a generic term for a wide range of sparkling wines, some of which contradict champagne’s luxury image by selling for as little as 150 rubles ($2) a bottle.
The law has sparked controversy: Even the head of one of Russia’s major winemakers thinks the law goes too far.
“For me, there is no doubt that real champagne comes from the Champagne region in France,” Pavel Titov, president of Abrau-Dyurso, told RIA-Novosti. “It is very important to protect Russian wines in our market and provide them with comprehensive patronage. But the legislative measures taken must be reasonable and not contradict common sense.”
The French champagne industry group asked its partners to pause all Russian shipments.
“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.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook,” she told the AFP news agency. “Me and my clients are thinking what to do next.”
She thinks the new law is nonsense.
“How will they walk back on it?” she told AFP. “So many officials love this champagne.”
Drinks market expert Vadim Drobiz doesn’t think the law is a big deal.
“If there is no Moet, there won’t be a state coup and Russian elites will not commit suicide,” Drobiz told AFP.
The law is now being ridiculed severely.
“Now it’s necessary to ban Scots and Americans from using the word ‘whisky,’” joked restaurateur Sergei Mironov.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.