Russian officials have said quality concerns forced them to pull sales of some California wines, including Geyser Peak Merlot, at a time of heightened political tension between Russia and the US.

Russia’s state consumer protection body said it had suspended sales of some California wines because they contained excess pesticide residues. Gnarly Head Chardonnay, Geyser Peak Merlot and Crane Lake Moscato were the brands affected.

Tests showed excess levels of phthalate and bifenazate in some of the wines, according to the watchdog, named Rospotrebnadzor.

But, several media, including the Moscow Times, linked the timing of the ban with worsening political tension between Russia and US – particularly over Ukraine.

Russia has a history of banning food and wine imports from nations it is in political dispute with.

Earlier this month, Russian officials appeared to re-start an argument with Georgia over the quality of wine imports. Rospotrebnadzor said Georgian wines violated safety regulations and had not been properly inspected before being exported.

Georgia’s ministry of agriculture retaliated by defending standards in its wine industry, saying that wines were sent to laboratories for rigorous testing.

In December 2014, Rospotrebnadzor said it had suspended 3,000 litres of wine from sale – most of it believed to be from Georgia and Bulgaria – because it either failed quality tests or came with the wrong papers.