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French minister says 'optimistic' of ending Russia champagne row

·2-min read
France's Trade Minister Franck Riester called champagne "a symbol for France" and expressed hope of an agreement to end a dispute with Russia over labeling bottles of the drink (AFP/Ludovic MARIN)

France's Trade Minister Franck Riester on Wednesday said he was "quite optimistic" that a resolution could be found to a dispute with Russia over labeling champagne bottles.

Home of the original champagne, France jealously guards its right to use the term and has been in talks with Moscow about a law signed by President Vladimir Putin in July that bars French champagne producers from using the word on their bottles sold in Russia.

In late October, Paris obtained a two-month delay in implementing the rule, which specifically forbids the use of the Russian translation of champagne -- "Shampanskoe" -- on imported bottles.

"We continue to discuss with the Russian authorities at European level and French level because we think we can convince them that they have interest to be part of the fight to protect geographical indication," Riester told reporters during a visit to Washington.

He noted that Russian investors are interested in champagne, and they could be "good messengers for the Russian administration."

"Overall, I think that Russia could share with us the importance of geographic indications. And so I'm quite optimistic for the future," Riester said, calling the drink "a symbol for France."

French producers can still use the word in French but only Russian producers of sparkling wines can use the term in Cyrillic -- a move that caused outrage in France's Champagne region.

Along with the United States and Haiti, Russia is one of the few countries that have never recognized the word "champagne" as an exclusive term for sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France.

Russia is the 15th biggest export market for French champagne, with 1.8 million bottles sold in the country in 2019.

The French champagne industry body recommended its members cease exporting to Russia in July, but it reversed the guidance in September as diplomatic talks between Paris and Moscow took place.

During his visit to the US capital, Riester also reiterated the EU position that China was a "systemic rival" but said it was important to work with Beijing on issues that affect the whole world.

"How can we address the question of climate change if we do not include China in the strategy?" he said.

Dt/cs/hs

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