The Russian Champagne debacle

The wine world has been in turmoil since last week: Russia has passed a law that requires new certifications of imported Champagne. Reactions from the industry followed promptly. What exactly is behind the new law and what consequences does it have for the wine industry?

Sergey Panov has compiled the most important information.

 

In Russia, soon without appellation on the label: Champagne
In Russia, soon without appellation on the label: Champagne

Update: On July, 9th, Russian Federal Customs Service almost stopped the import of wines and cognacs into Russia. This information has already been confirmed by several major importers. 

The new law changed the categories of alcoholic beverages. In particular, for imported wines the categories of "wines with a geographical indication" and "wines with a protected geographical indication" were abolished. Now for almost all wines, from Veneto IGT to Margaux AOP, importers must go through the entire certification process, from collecting and submitting documents to sending samples for laboratory analysis. According to Natalia Shastina, brand director of one of the largest importers, AST, of all planned shipments of wine, the customs let through with the old certificates only 5 SKU. The same is true for other importers.

Low speed of work and bureaucratization of regulatory bodies make the most pessimistic scenario possible: the long-lasting collapse of all imports of wines and cognacs and supply disruptions for months.

What happened before

On 2 July, Vladimir Putin signed into law Federal Law No. 345 of 2 July 2021. Although the bill itself was introduced more than three years ago in 2017, it was rejected in the first and second readings. No one expected it to be signed in the coming months. The document was amended, and the current convocation of the lower house of parliament had almost completed its work. But on its last working day, the Duma passed a law, which was agreed in the Federation Council, and a few days later lay on the president's desk. And before the ink had even dried on the document, a scandal erupted.

The new version of the law amended the current Federal Law No. 171 from 22 November 1995, which regulates the production and sale of all alcoholic beverages. Among other things, the descriptions of the types of alcoholic beverages were amended. Certificates for customs clearance, excise stamps, etc. are issued according to the types listed in the new article. The previous version of the law adopted after the collapse of the Soviet Union described all sparkling wines as "sparkling wine (Champagne)", while the new version reduced the category name to "sparkling wine" with subcategory "Russian Champagne”. Following the official logic, some Russian sparkling wines retained the right to be called Champagne, while wines from Champagne lost it. Even before the president signed the law, the Russian division of Moët Hennessy announced a halt in shipments. 

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