Italian makers of sparkling spumante have claimed victory over their French champagne rivals in a battle of the bubblies.

"/> Italian makers of sparkling spumante have claimed victory over their French champagne rivals in a battle of the bubblies.

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Italian fizz overtakes champagne

Italian makers of sparkling spumante have claimed victory over their French champagne rivals in a battle of the bubblies.

Italian fizz overtakes champagne
Dinner Series

According to the Coldiretti Farmers’ Confederation, exports of the sparkling Italian wine were up a record 24 percent in the first eight months of 2011.

The group claimed that “over 200 million bottles will have been consumed abroad in 2011, out of a total production of roughly 400 million,” reported the AGI news agency.

This would beat the confederation’s estimate of 192 million bottles of champagne sold overseas.

The strong performance of Italian sparkling wine is led by Prosecco, which represents over half of all sparkling wine produced in Italy.

Major growth markets were Russia, with a 46 percent rise in imports, the US (31 percent), UK (21 percent). Germany is the leading importer of Italian sparkling wine.

French champagne producers appeared unmoved by the news.

“We are comparing wines that are absolutely not comparable,” sniffed Thibaut Le Mailloux of the CIVC champagne committee.

“Spumante is an obscure appellation of several sparkling wines while champagne is an appellation d’origine contrôlée, with one single method of production and a strict rule book,” he told the Aujourd’hui newspaper.

Le Mailloux added that around half of champagne sales are made in the last four months of the year and 30 percent are in November and December, in the run up to Christmas and New Year.

“Even if we don’t beat the 2007 record of 339 million bottles, we expect to sell 327 to 330 million bottles this year,” he added.

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French Champagne makers threaten boycott of Russia over ‘sparkling wine’ label

Russian elites could soon find themselves without their favourite French bubbles if Moet Hennessy makes good on a threat to halt champagne supplies following a new law signed by President Vladimir Putin.

French Champagne makers threaten boycott of Russia over 'sparkling wine' label
Russian lawmakers adopted legislation saying the word "champagne" can only be applied to wine produced in Russia. Photo: Alexander NEMENOV / AFP.

Moet Hennessy’s Russia office warned local partners it was suspending supplies after Russian lawmakers adopted legislation stipulating that the word “champagne” can only be applied to wine produced in Russia, while the world-famous tipple from France’s Champagne region should be called “sparkling wine”.

Leonid Rafailov, general director of AST, a top liquor distributor which works with a number of brands including Moet Hennessy, said on Saturday his firm had received a letter from the French company notifying it of the suspension.

“I confirm that such a letter exists, and it is justified,” Rafailov told AFP.

He said that in accordance with the legislation – signed off on by Putin on Friday – the company would have to undergo new registration procedures, among other requirements.

Sebastien Vilmot, Moet Hennessy managing director in Russia, declined to speak to AFP.

But in a statement released through Rafailov, Vilmot called the suspension a “temporary” measure before a solution could be found.

Moet Hennessy is part of French luxury goods group LVMH and known for such brands as Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Dom Perignon.

The French are fiercely protective of the term “champagne”, and it can only be made in the French region of the same name.

A copy of Moet Hennessy’s letter was first published on social media on Friday by a representative of a Moscow-based liquor importer and distributor.

Drinks market expert Vadim Drobiz suggested the legislation was open to interpretation but added that Moet Hennessy’s share of the Russian market was relatively small and well-heeled clients could find a replacement.

“If there is no Moet, there won’t be a state coup and Russian elites will not commit suicide,” Drobiz quipped.

But wine consultant Anna Chernyshova questioned the purpose of the amendments. “My phone has been ringing off the hook,” she said. “Me and my clients are thinking what to do next.”

Chernyshova, who helps people build wine collections, said she was not sure why the Russian parliament had passed such a law. “How will they walk back on it?” she told AFP. “So many officials love this champagne.”

Social media was abuzz with jokes, with wits making fun of the latest piece of Russian legislation. “Now it’s necessary to ban Scots and Americans from using the word “whisky”, joked restaurateur Sergei Mironov.

Popular singer Vasya Oblomov said Russian lawmakers could now adopt similar legislation regulating the use of the name “Mercedes” and even place names.

“I thought it was a joke,” wrote Putin’s self-exiled critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. “I was wrong.”