Various media sources have reported that Russia is requiring Champagne wines from the actual appellation of Champagne to tout “Sparkling Wine” on their labels as a result of a new law that went into effect on July 2nd. See, e.g., Only Wines Made in Russia Can be Called Champagne Under New Putin Law and Russia to France’s Champagne region: Sorry to burst your bubble, but here, you’re just ‘sparkling wine.’ Meanwhile, the country is permitting Russian sparkling wines labels to state “Shampanskoye” (the Russian word for “Champagne”) on wines produced in Russia. As one can imagine, this has created quite a stir for the Champagne community and for industry members who have fought to protect appellation of origin and truth in origin labeling.

Several Champagne producers allegedly threatened to stop shipments of their coveted wines to Russia. Of course, an action like this has stirred significant concern with the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne or the French organization that oversees the production, distribution, promotion, and (of course) protection of Champagne.

We anticipate that this is a matter that could reach the World Trade Organization unless Russia agrees to repeal its new law. It goes without saying that the region of Champagne is built on centuries of growers, refined skills, and significant history. While there are many regions throughout the world that have sought to protect their geographic names (or “geographical indications”), Champagne is probably one of the most famous (if not the most famous). Further, Russia’s new law undermines decades of work to develop protection for geographical indications under the The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS”).

Some speculate that this change is brought about as a protectionist measure for Russia’s domestic wine industry (specifically, with respect to the Crimea area which produces sparkling wine). Others suggest that this shift is due in part to a close Putin associate owning wineries in the Crimea. Still, unless action is taken to repeal the Russian law, it seems only a matter of time before Scotch or Tequila or Port may be produced in Russia.

For more information on wine or alcohol law, please contact Lindsey Zahn.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for general information purposes only, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice