The weather in France has been perfect for champagne grapes this year but marketing conditions have been poor. The Corona Virus hurt champagne sales and a reportedly billion bottles of this bubbly wine sits in cellars or warehouses. If you see the word “champagne” on a bottle that means its contents come from the French champagne region. I have never been there but have seen a video about it more than once while peddling away during exercise. I also learned about protected French champagne in Australia near Melbourne where French distributors opened wineries to produce and sell real champagne abroad.
French champagne grape growers must agree to sell only a fixed amount of grapes to make champagne each year. The rest of the grapes are left to rot in the field or are made into champagne and reserved in case future harvests are poor. It’s a tightly controlled system to keep French champagne truly French like only certain British cheese makers legally have the international right to call the cheese they produce Stilton.
But now Vladimir Putin has started a champagne war in Russia. He recently decreed that only the inexpensive sparkling wine made is his country is champagne. He recently signed a new law that states that only the affordable sparkling wine made in Russia to create low priced luxury for the masses can be labeled champagne. Sparkling wine is common in Russia and very popular. Ruth and I learned this on a Russian cruise ship when sparkling wine was served free with breakfast. The night before we were served vodka free with dinner. No one asked if we wanted it, but it was at our place on the table. The name champagne is protected in 120 countries in the world to guarantee its origin in France, and now Putin is calling homemade sparkling wine champagne. According to one online market research firm, Russia imports about 50 million liters of sparkling wine each year but only 13% of it is real champagne. This is unacceptable to real champagne makers in France and could get ugly fast.
This matter is becoming very political. Several big name French champagne manufacturers have threatened to halt distribution in Russia and call Putin’s new law unacceptable. Most local sparkling wine in Russia has traditionally been produced in Crimea. Russia took Crimea away from Ukraine in 2014 in a much disputed annexation.
The Shampanskoye War continues to rage. The photo up top of Putin is from wallpaperflare.com.