[Above Photo - In flight, the Soviet built "Concordski"]
[Below Photo - The "real" British/French "Concorde" with Louis Roederer's "Cristal" Champagne]
Can you believe it? According to several news outlets, Russia has laid claim to the name "Champagne"!
Probably not the end of the world, but we're all living in strange times.
Under a new law, there has been a dramatic change to wines being exported from France to Russia. Shipments have come to a halt and distributors are scratching their heads wondering what to do next. Now, on the front label, the name "Shampanskoye" (Using Cyrillic lettering), is reserved for wines produced in Russia and, on back labels, all French Champagne sold there must only be described as a "Sparkling Wine" and not "Champagne". How the mighty have fallen!
I don't think it will please the winemakers, the French government, or anyone in the EU representing wine production. After all, the name "Champagne" is a protected PDO.
If the "Scotch Whisky" name was appropriated, there would be uproar and revolution in Scotland. For myself, I couldn't allow anyone to get away with producing "Cornish Pasties" anywhere outside of Cornwall, let alone in Russia. On the other hand, in my opinion, the Devon version is far superior, so I'm not too worried.
What could be next?
English sparkling wines renamed as "English Champagne"?
Now that would be an interesting conundrum for both consumers and international lawyers.
For just £35.99 you can find out for yourself if Nyetimber Rosé is better than the "Real Thing" (isn't that Coca Cola?).
Supposedly, according to early records, the British had a form of bottle fermented wine some years before Dom Perignon's developments. Our glass-making produced stronger bottles than the French ones, where many exploded due to the secondary fermentations being out of control. Not a safe wine to drink in the early days of Champagne production.
Champagne has long been associated with "high society" and, in fact, the "Cristal" brand was originally made for Czar Alexander II of Russia in the late 19th century. Frazier's were recently selling some of the latest 2012 vintage for £199 a bottle. It very quickly sold out! To the Russians? I've not seen the invoice, so I can neither confirm, nor deny any rumour.
Strangely, and no-one is talking about it, you can still buy USA sparkling wines labelled as "Champagne" in America, itself, but the best wines don't need to do it. They sell on quality.
I remember, on a visit to California back in 1992, a large group of UK "wine trade" members were plied with the utterly brilliant Napa Valley Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs whilst being taken by yacht around San Francisco harbour. How the other half live! Well, for one week only.
If you can cast your mind back even further to the original flight of the Soviet built "Concordski", or the combined British/French "Concorde" which stunned travellers around the world, you can see there have been attempts to "borrow" the work and reputation of others. It's not new and still goes on today (discount supermarket copycat product packaging, maybe?). Certainly, on those historic, supersonic flights, there was no shortage of bubbly being dispensed from the onboard drinks' trollies to the well-heeled passengers.
Perhaps we'll see more imports of Russian "Shampanskoye" into the UK? Another wine to tick off the "bucket list".
And, anyway, what's in a name, comrade?
[Schramsberg Wine Cellar - Photo Credit - © Frank Schulenburg CC BY-SA 4.0]