You are currently viewing the International Edition. You can also switch to the Hong Kong Edition.
Sunday 5 July 2015

Obama inauguration “Champagne” angers French

10th January, 2013 by Lucy Shaw

The Champagne Bureau in Washington has attacked plans to serve Californian “Champagne” at President Barack Obama’s inauguration lunch on 21 January.


Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvée Champagne, California, will be served with dessert at the lunch for 200 guests in the Capitol Building following Obama’s swearing-in.

Sam Heitner, director of the Champagne Bureau, has hit out at the decision.

“US law clearly states that the full name of the wine label must include where it comes from. Under the law, the label for this wine would state ‘California Champagne’,” Heitner told congressional newspaper The Hill.

“While we do not support this practice, it is US law — and we would urge the inaugural committee to follow that law and not state the sparkling wine being served is Champagne. Champagne only comes from Champagne, France.”

Despite Heitner’s protests, the wine is labelled in accordance with US law.

While using the name “Champagne” to describe sparkling wines that are not from the French region is banned by most countries, American law is more flexible.

Korbel Natural Russian River Valley "Champagne"

Korbel Natural Russian River Valley “Champagne”

It prohibits the term for newer sparkling wines but allows it for those produced before 2006, on the condition that their origin is featured in the name.

Heitner told The Hill that rather than seeking to denigrate Californian sparkling wine, he wanted to ensure that American consumers were not being misled.

It is the eighth time Russian River Valley fizz Korbel Natural has been served at a presidential inauguration; a tradition that began in 1985 with Ronald Regan.

For the first time in history, two wines from New York will be served at the Obama lunch – a Finger Lakes Riesling and a Merlot from Long Island.

Tierce 2010 dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes, a collaboration from Anthony Road Winery, Fox Run Vineyards and Red Newt Cellars, will be served with the starter: steamed lobster with New England clam chowder.

Meanwhile, Bedell Cellars 2009 Merlot from the North Fork of Long Island, will be served with the main course: hickory-grilled bison.

“This is a major breakthrough for New York wines,” said Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.

6 Responses to “Obama inauguration “Champagne” angers French”

  1. Martin Cody says:

    I completely agree with the Champagne Bureau. Does Spain call their sparkling wines Champagne? Does Italy? No, Cava and Prosecco, respectively, as long as they meet the production method requirements as in Champagne. It’s unfortunate we cannot respect the rules. Equally unfortunate is many will now incorrectly believe they’re sipping Champagne when they are not. There are many fabulous producers of “sparkling wine” in California and rarely will you see them market it as Champagne. Korbel it would seem is preying on the obvious marketing cache of “champagne” over “sparkling wine” for commercial benefit.

    Martin Cody
    Cellar Angels,LLC

    • David says:

      @Martin also be aware that many pinot noir, cabernet s., and merlot grape varietals are grown IN SPAIN and used to make Cava.

      Champagne is an English word and has been so for centuries; it’s obscene to me that speech be curtailed for commercial purposes. I also completely reject the French lobby’s insistence on using the term “sparkling wine”. It’s one thing to trademark the name Champagne; to force a producer to use another term entirely is beyond the pale.

      The French should focus less on lobbyists and lawyers and more on making good products. It’s not as if producers like Korbel are making poor products that diminish the value of the word champagne.

  2. Ross Keerslake says:

    Huh, it’s like piracy of Champagne? Film and music piracy is already cracked down on….why can’t we have the Champagne police and lock up these culprits!

  3. Sidney Wells says:

    I’m sure the Champaigne commission can wipe away their tears with Le Kleenex.

  4. Giovanni, Turin - Italy says:

    Dear Martin,
    to be more precise, the Italian equivalent of Champagne is called Spumante “Metodo Classico” (like French Methode Champenoise). The main region of production of Spumante Metodo Classico are Franciacorta DOCG, Trento DOC and Altalanga DOCG.

    Prosecco is produced with a different technique called “Metodo Martinotti-Charmat” (Charmat process) where the wine undergoes secondary fermentation in stainless steel tanks or steel vessels. To produce Prosecco we use a local grape variety called “glera” whereas in Franciacorta, Trentino and Altalanga we use mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with other varieties.

  5. Robert Cope says:

    Perhaps sad to say, as in best wines, France is falling behind California. In blind taste tests I expect Korbel to do particularly well — maybe another, as in, 1976-year embarrassment for French pride?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

If that's interesting, how about these?

Mumm releases Santana sparkler

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana has teamed up with Mumm Napa to release a more...

How to drink like a billionaire

With access to tropical islands, private yachts and the best food and drink more...

Louis Latour Agencies signs Gosset

Louis Latour Agencies marked its 25th anniversary last night with the more...

Digital and Communications Executive

£22,000-£26,000 dependent on experience

UK importer confident of Champagne comeback

One leading UK Champagne importer is optimistic for the future of the category more...

Top 10 wine brands 2015

In a year that saw major shifts in the global wine market, the drinks business more...

Top 10 banned alcoholic drinks

The drinks trade has seen its fair share of drinks banned from public more...

PR Manager


Top 10 ways to reuse a wine bottle

If you are anything like the db team, it won't take long to amass a collection more...

Cristal launches 'underrated' vintage

Champagne Louis Roederer has released its Cristal prestige cuvée from the more...

Californian wine struggling with supply

There is a "growing mismatch" between supply and demand that is badly hampering more...

Hatch Mansfield – Brand Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive salary

Asda warns suppliers of Champagne scam

Asda is warning suppliers to be on guard after several companies received more...

Top 10 architectural wonders of the wine world

You don't have to look far to find stunning examples of architectural prowess more...

William Grant in World Cup deal

William Grant & Sons has been awarded exclusive spirits and champagne pouring more...

Supplier Relationship Manager

London, United Kingdom

The London Wine Fair in pictures

From red trews and foie gras macaroons to 2CVs, wine on tap and temporary more...

Mumm releases vintage collection

Champagne Mumm has released a new “Collection du Chef de Caves”, featuring more...

Top 10 modern wine drinker stereotypes

From Rioja lovers to Champagne quaffers, the drinks business has more...

Warehouse Supervisor

London, United Kingdom

£27,000-£30,000 depending on experience

Champagne needs to 'create a new occasion'

Champagne needs to "create a new occasion" and better communicate its brand if more...

Fine dining resto to serve wine on tap

Proving that the trend in the UK has spread beyond casual dining venues, fine more...

How to become a 'wine expert' in four hours

A doctor of psychology has devised 10 simple steps which he claims can set you more...

International Business Development Assistant

London, United Kingdom

To be determined, based on the profile and experience of the candidate

Armand de Brignac launches its most expensive Champagne ever

Jay-Z’s Champagne brand Armand de Brignac has launched its most expensive more...

US wine brand hopes to ape craft beer success

A wine brand from California is hoping to ape craft beer’s success in the UK more...