July 25, 2021

the dispute could be settled before the WTO

The decision has “Scandalized” French champagne producers. The name “champagne”, often usurped and now protected, is threatened in Russia by a law signed by President Vladimir Poutine himself on Friday July 2. The text obliges distributors of champagne brands to write on the back label, placed on the back of the bottle, the words “sparkling wine”. The translation of champagne into Russian – “champanskoye”, according to the French transliteration – would be reserved for Russian producers of sparkling wines.

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Champagne producers called on French and European diplomacy on Monday July 5 to intervene in this case. France believes in negotiations, but if necessary will take the matter to the World Trade Organization (WTO). “If, by chance, there are proven violations of WTO rules, well, we will continue, as we had planned to do previously with regard to Russia. I hope that the dialogue will make it possible to resolve this difficulty ”, declared the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, arrested on Tuesday July 6 on this subject in the National Assembly.

Regretting a “Really very fast examination in the Russian Parliament” of the text in question, the head of French diplomacy said he did not yet measure all the consequences. “This law is part of a logic of protectionist measures on the part of Russia in the wine sector”added Mr. Le Drian. “We have, moreover, already had to bring this question to the WTO on the questioning of geographical indications. “

The Champagne Committee calls for an end to exports

“To deprive the people of Champagne of the right to use the name champagne [en cyrillique] is scandalous; it is our common heritage and the apple of our eyes ”, denounced in a joint declaration Maxime Toubart and Jean-Marie Barillère, co-chairs of the Champagne Committee. They asked the Champagne companies to stop all shipping to Russia, until further notice.

According to the Champagne Committee, if the wines of Champagne retain the exclusive right to use the name champagne in Latin characters on the main label, this new law obliges them to renounce the term “champanskoye” and to present themselves under the term sparkling wine. in Cyrillic characters on the back label.

“The Russians, what they read isn’t Latin, it’s Cyrillic characters!” “, said Charles Goemaere, CEO of the Champagne Committee. Russia is only the 15e champagne export market, with around two million bottles out of the 150 million sold on average each year outside France, but it is “Relatively well valued”, because the Russians buy nice cuvées, according to Mr. Goemaere.

The Champagne Committee regrets that this law “Calls into question more than twenty years of bilateral discussions between the European Union and Russia on the protection of appellations of origin”. Deploring that it was not informed of the implementation of this new legislation, the committee said it was determined to continue discussions with the Russian authorities to obtain the exclusive right to use the name champagne.

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Sovetskoye champanskoye, a cheap drink

Launched in 1937, under Stalin, the Sovetskoye Champanskoye brand was to desecrate a bourgeois drink by making it accessible to all the proletarians of the Soviet Union. At the same time, several republics had also launched their cognac, or “koniak”. These drinks were mass produced and sold at an affordable price. But at the same time they became synonymous with pale copies of their French versions.

After the breakup of the USSR, the name “champanskoye” persisted, which began to cause problems, especially after Moscow joined the World Trade Organization in 2012. According to the Russian association of producers of sparkling wines, the country’s factories can produce up to 220 million bottles per year, the vast majority (216 million) on the basis of a production method very different from that used in France.

Controlled designation of origin, the term “champagne” is jealously defended by France, which recalls that the wine must come from a specific perimeter in the region of the same name to be entitled to use it. The defense of the Champagne appellation is an ancestral struggle of producers, who joined forces in 1843 “Against the misleading uses of sparkling wine producers”, reminds the Champagne Committee.

Since the mid-1980s, producers have sought to extend the scope of protection of the appellation “champagne” against parasitic uses which divert it and weaken its reputation.

The World with AFP