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Russian Champagne

"A bottle of champagne for every Soviet family" proclaimed a slogan in the sixties when scientists succeeded in rapidly mass-producing a form of sparkling wine allowing its cheap and wide distribution under the brand name Sovietskoye Shampanskoye.

However, production of the wine is now under threat as the French are planning legal action to prevent foreign manufacturers from using the word "Champagne" under a new offensive from the Institut National des Appelations d'Origine - the state-backed body that safeguards the use of regional product's names,

Russian Shampanskoye was produced in Tsarist times and had been awarded medals in the Universal Exhibition of 1901 and hence, as the Russians argue, has long been accepted internationally.  The French have struggled for over a decade to prevent the Russians using the name. Armen Khomyakov a commercial manager at one of Moscow's leading Shampanskoye factories said, "It would be absurd to stop using the name because we have no other word for the product in Russian.  It's become part of the language."

Personally, I think that Sovietskoye Shampanskoye was a superior wine to the French crap, although the Bulgarian brand Iskra (Spark) has the edge over the other two.

Nowadays, champagne is a generic term and the French will just have to accept this fact, they can't have it both ways - under EU rules a British cheese maker was prevented from making a Greek-style cheese and calling it Feta cheese, however, the only Feta cheese I can buy in my local Sainsbury's is French!

February 2000

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