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Champagne v Shampanskoye

In good news for Champagne houses, drinkers in Moscow's upscale bars are unimpressed by Putin’s ruling that only Russian bubbly passes the test while French bottles must be labelled ‘sparkling wine’.

These are strange times for the Russian capital’s fine wine and champagne bars, not only operating during a pandemic but - as of last week - coming to terms with a bizarre new law that ignores France’s appellations for Champagne and rules that only domestically produced shampanskoye is worthy of the prestigious name.

Ask the upscale Russian clientele whether they are ready to accept French champagne as “sparkling wine” and you will get a distinctly cool reaction. “Champagne is still champagne,” smiled Ilya, a consultant in his 20s taking a cigarette break. He had settled on prosecco that evening and said he was not averse to ordering a bottle of Russian sparkling wine. “It’s good, but you can’t just change the rules about champagne,” he told The Guardian.

The provocative legislation signed by Vladimir Putin a week ago, which requires all non-Russian producers to label their bottles in Russia as “sparkling wine”, has had little impact so far in Moscow’s high-end bars and cafes, where import laws are not expected to change how Champagnes are served to customers.

Putin is reportedly not much of a drinker and generally avoids alcohol, unless the drink is part of a formal reception or ceremony, so nobody is much the wiser about what his intentions are. Maybe he just has a grudge the Krug can charge such stellar prices whilst shampanskoye generally sits on the shelves next to the Prosecco.

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