In Russia, Champagne Drinks You

Beverage Recommendation for this Post: try Russian Champagne to get the full experience or for a non-alcoholic drink, a dark crisp Cold Brew that will keep the memories of dark times at bay

Of all of France’s claims to fame found throughout history, one of the most iconic is that sweet, bubbly champagne found at almost any celebration. Hailing from the region of France named Champagne, this type of wine is traditionally a sparkling white that uses grapes grown in the region and is normally put through a second fermentation. France has worked very hard throughout history to emphasize that any sparkling white wine is not champagne, only wines made it a very specific process and from grapes in that specific region of France can be legally labeled champagne. Champagne has been developed as more than just a drink but also as a symbol of class and a lavish lifestyle. Holding a glass of champagne was for the wealthy elite who could afford such a niche drink and signified a better life overall. This was an image and ideal the France had worked hard over the years to perfect.

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An Original Ad for Russian Champagne

So when a product going by the name, Russian Champagne began to appear in the markets of the motherland before the revolution it sparked interest as an unusual product to say the least. Primarily made with grapes grown on the Crimean coast, Russia Champagne was spear headed by Prince Lev Golitsyn and Anton Mikhailovich Frolov-Bagreev. The latter of which earned renown in the revolution and after such began extensive work in making Russian Champagne a drink for the masses of the Soviet Union. One highlight of this innovation in Russia Champagne was the fermentation in large vats rather than in individual bottles as is traditional. By 1942, 12,000,000 bottles were being produced per year, giving the masses of the Soviet Union a taste of the high life, claiming to be just as good as or greater than French Champagne.

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Modern Bottle of Russian Champagne

Beyond the astonishing work and effort that went into making this drink, Russian Champagne is also a symbol, but one far different than its French cousin. Russian Champagne is a symbol encouraged and pushed by the Soviet government as a way of reassuring the mass public that they made the right choice. In the aftermath of the revolution there were so many changes in economic and political style by the government that it left a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of the masses. To be able to put not just a glass of champagne in every hand, but Russian Champagne was a sign of success not just on Western terms but in the terms of the Soviet Union. The emphasis on enforcing a national identity and then reinforcing it with Western Symbols re-branded as Russian was a powerful balm on the worried and unsure Russian masses. How could you question how well the new regime was doing when the country was ‘well off’ enough for champagne, the drink of French kings, to be found at the local market? But not just any champagne, Russian champagne. All the pain and hardship of the war and revolution, the paranoia and fear of the new regime, easily washed away with just one glass. Drink comrades, drink to forget.

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Sources:

  1. http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1934-2/soviet-champagne/
  2. http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1934-2/soviet-champagne/soviet-champagne-texts/moscow-food-advertisements/
  3. http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1934-2/soviet-champagne/soviet-champagne-images/
  4. http://www.wineterroirs.com/2009/10/sovietchampagne.html
  5. https://www.interempresas.net/Vitivinicola/Articulos/54015-Champan-ruso.html
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11 thoughts on “In Russia, Champagne Drinks You

  1. I really enjoyed your post! I honestly had no background knowledge on champagne at all, so this was great at filling me in on the origin of the famous toasting drink. I really liked your comparison between the French and Russian versions of champagne and how the French believe theirs is the true form. I definitely learned a lot from this post, including how the regime in Russia was more focussed on making things seem perfect rather than fixing many of its issues.

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  2. There are so many things about this post that could be used as a fun talking point at a party. I liked your analysis of the mass production of Soviet champagne, especially the point that it was a Western symbol turned into Soviet symbol of progress. It seems like a genius strategy too, pumping out luxury products cheaply to convince people everything is going great. The French insisting that only they can make “champagne” reminds me of the debate that only Eastern Europe can produce vodka and everything else is “grain spirits”. Great job!

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  3. I really enjoyed your post, especially your last paragraph as it demonstrated the need for Soviet champagne. The re-branding of champagne to become Soviet champagne was an excellent strategy to signify to the nation that the Soviet Union was successful and could be on par with Western nations.

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  4. This was awesome!! So unique and fun. I liked how you gave a history of champagne, originating from France and now into Russia. One of the things I was thinking about while reading this is the symbolic meaning of having Russian Champagne. I think this sentence, “To be able to put not just a glass of champagne in every hand, but Russian Champagne was a sign of success not just on Western terms but in the terms of the Soviet Union,” answered that question. Definitely a symbol of success and a carefree lifestyle with the champagne.

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    1. Agree! And as a kind of “Who knew” aside: Back in the day, A bottle of “Soviet Champagne” cost 6 rubles. (Kind of sad that I remember that, I know).

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  5. I enjoyed reading your post, I did not know that Russia had their own champagne. I’m currently taking Geography of Wine and even Professor Boyer mentioned how champagne is only made from the region of Champagne, it was neat to learn that Russia made their own and that everyone had access to it.

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  6. Nice post! I like how you contrasted the different methods of producing Champagne in France and in Russia. It is interesting how the mass produced method used in Russia could be seen as a contradiction to the symbol of glamour Champagne is associated with, but instead, it is seen as an achievement for the Russian population (or at least the manufacturers).

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  7. I thought this post was very interesting to read. I agree that champagne has a connotation of wealth and status, so it is interesting how Russians tried to use these ideals to sell their own Russian champagne. I also think its interesting how a product like this was being pushed, when many citizens were still going hungry. The juxtaposition of starvation and ‘luxury’ alcohol and what that says about the Russian society at the time.

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  8. The USSR and champagne are two things I would never associate with each other. I didn’t even know that they could grow grapes there so it was interesting to learn that not only did the Soviet Union make champagne, but that it was apparently really good. History is full of surprises.

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  9. I have never liked champagne but I really liked your post and how you connected the drink to broader cultural and social implications. Never knew it was traditionally made in bottles as opposed to in vats, I found that super cool (and am sure the french were pleased with the innovation). The drink of French kings and revolutionaries!

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  10. I think it’s funny that the Soviets who were so anti elitism chose champagne to be their drink of choice. All attempts at rebranding aside, I can’t imagine that it was something normal people actually drank on a regular basis, but that they pretended that they did is hilarious.

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