Soviet Shampanskoye and Armenian cognac set to disappear
by Evgeniya Chaykovskaya at 11/10/2010

Cut price cognac is soon to be a thing of the past in Russia as the
national alcohol watchdog tries to get tough with counterfeiters.

And popular local fizz, Shampanskoye, could be forced to rebrand as
Russia prepares to bow to French pressure and respect the international
designation for sparkling wines of the Champagne region.

Imposing a minimum price tag will wipe out the bootleggers' main selling
point, officials hope.

The move comes after a similar restriction on vodka, which now has a
minimum retail price of 89 roubles for half a litre.

Cognac will be pricier, at 190-210 roubles for 500ml, with the exact
figure to be set in two weeks after more market research.

Higher prices - better quality

The measure is supposed to change the current situation when as much as
half of cognac on the shelves is fake.

120 million litres of the spirit are sold in Russia, but local plants
produce about 10 million litres of cognac spirit. Even allowing for
imports it's unlikely that more than 60 million litres are the genuine
article, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported. Thus, every second bottle of
cognac in Russia is a fake.

Federal services on alcohol market regulation provide similar data: the
wine sold in the country consists of 28 per cent made of Russian grapes,
31 per cent - foreign and 41 per cent - counterfeit.

But while official prices may seem to have little impact on bootleg
distillers, the union of alcohol producers' chairman Dmitry Dobrov
claims it has worked with vodka.

"The minimum price allows us to effectively push the fakes out of the
market," he told Moskovsky Komsomolets. "Despite all the fears, shops
are following this rule en masse. This measure has worked with vodka and
infusions, it will definitely work with cognac. The level of prices
suggested by the officials is absolutely adequate to the lowest level of
prices for real cognac."

Dobrov thinks that in the end the producers of fake technique will lose
their main advantage - their low prices.

What's in a name?

Another step in the fight with poor quality alcohol is to finally
conform to international regulations, answer the complaints of the
French winemakers and reserve the name cognac and champagne for drinks
produced in the respective regions of France.

The familiar Armenian cognac and Soviet champagne will from then on be
known as brandy and sparkling wine respectively.

The new technical regulation will also divide wine into natural wines
and "wine drinks". The labels will have to mention the region where the
grape comes from and detailed contents of the bottle.

Same counterfeit with a different name?

However, not all experts are optimistic about this set of regulations.
"Even if the production of illegal cognac is cut down by 12-15 per cent,
then this volume is not going to disappear, it will simply be called
brandy and will still be sold at 150 roubles per bottle," the head of
CIFRRA agency Vadim Drobiz told Kommersant.

From: A. Papazian