French irritated by Obama's inaugural 'champagne'

An industry group says bubbly planned for the inauguration lunch is mislabeled, but US law disagrees.

By Jason Notte Jan 11, 2013 1:23PM

Image: Couple toasting champagne glasses at restaurant table (Chris Ryan/OJO Images/Getty Images)You know, French champagne lobbyists, you make it really difficult not to crack jokes about snooty waiters and cartoon skunks when you quibble over trifles like the bubbly being served at President Barack Obama's inaugural lunch.


Just to illustrate how the Champagne Bureau spends its time when not sniffing at tourists who mispronounce coq au vin or chasing a female cat that's accidentally had white paint spilled down its back, the industry group scolded the inaugural committee for recklessly throwing around the word "champagne" on its luncheon menu.


The committee decided to celebrate the president's swearing in with a version of Korbel Natural Russian River Valley Champagne, which the Champagne Bureau says is decidedly not champagne.


"We would urge the inaugural committee to follow that law and not state the sparkling wine being served is champagne, as they did in today's release," Sam Heitner, the director of the Champagne Bureau, told The Hill. "Champagne only comes from Champagne, France."


Except when it doesn't. Many countries around the world restrict the use of "champagne" to sparkling wine from the Champagne region, but U.S. law is a bit different. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has spelled out when wineries can use certain designations and just how they can use them. The use of the term "champagne" is protected under the "semi-generic" law 27 CFR 4.24, which dictates that the word can be applied only to sparkling wines produced before 2006, as long as their point of origin is clearly spelled out on the label. This is where the Champagne Bureau and the inaugural committee agree to disagree.


"U.S. law clearly states that the full name of the wine label must include where it comes from," Heitner told The Hill. "Under the law, the label for this wine would state 'California Champagne.'"


Perhaps some portion of the label was lost in translation, as the inaugural committee's press release indicates that the sparkling wine being served with dessert is "Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvée Champagne, California." Though the "California" portion seems to clearly indicate the wine's home state, Heitner insists it's still a violation of U.S. law.


This isn't Brown-Forman (BF.A) subsidiary Korbel's first go-round with the Champagne lobby. Founded in 1882 by two Czechoslovakian brothers, Korbel has used "Champagne" to describe its sparkling wine for more than a century and is often grandfathered into Champagne designation laws by using the "California Champagne" label. It's been served at six inaugurations, including president Obama's last in 2009.


For now, France itself is sitting out this bubbly battle, as it is far too preoccupied with its transition back to a socialist government and the tax-driven departure of actor Gerard Depardieu to notice. People involved with planning the inauguration seem not to care what the Champagne Bureau has to say about their wine selection either.


"The Champagne Lobby should have a glass of their own product and relax," said Matt House, a spokesman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.


More on Money Now

457Comments
Jan 11, 2013 3:56PM
avatar
I'am sorry to hurt your American / International  feelings, but if you went to school to study food n wine services - any sparkling wine made in France can be labeled champagne any other is just good old sparkling wine including Korbel, Asti Spumante(Italian) and Sekt(German)
Jan 11, 2013 3:55PM
avatar
I'm glad he choose an american product screw the french always try to buy american especially in the white house and set an example for pride in our products
Jan 11, 2013 3:55PM
avatar
If everyone recalls, VHS is trademarked.  Along with MTV, CNN and CBS.  If a company or industry protects its trademark are they too being  "snooty"  as the writer seems to believe?
Jan 11, 2013 3:55PM
avatar
I like US Sparkling wine. US. I prefer US. Maybe that's why I'm not a snob.
Jan 11, 2013 3:54PM
avatar
Ripple Pagan Pink is more approiate
Jan 11, 2013 3:52PM
avatar
WOW I have never drunk real champagne. Now I won't drink Champagne. Dirty French People.
Jan 11, 2013 3:52PM
avatar
Who cares what "the French" think?
Jan 11, 2013 3:52PM
avatar
ha ha - right of of "Wayne's World" on Benjamin's balcony - twits!
Jan 11, 2013 3:50PM
avatar
F%^*CK the French. First time I met a French person She treated me like SH%^&IT. I don't need them, we US don't need them. Who cares for the nose up in the air.
Jan 11, 2013 3:50PM
avatar
How about if countries stop telling other countries what they can call products?

Sorry purists but in the US champagne is more commonly thought of as a generic term vs the reference to its historical region of origination. Anyone snobby enough to want champagne from Champagne in France will do the research and buy it. Everyone else doesn't care, they just want bubbly.

Jan 11, 2013 3:49PM
avatar
Damned frogs are just PO'd because they no longer are considered  the premier wine and cheese makers in the world. With many American products rivaling their supposed eminence.
Screw 'em. Who cares what they think. They can drink whatever they want when they inaugurate their next President.
Jan 11, 2013 3:49PM
avatar

Who cares about what the frenchies think or complaint about....Champagne is over rated....I prefer drinking CAVA like Freixenet....I NEVER buy champagne

Jan 11, 2013 3:47PM
Jan 11, 2013 3:46PM
avatar
Hummm.... RUSSIAN Valley Champagne.... Communist ... Leftist... or perhaps what he likes???? Would have been one of my choices...
Jan 11, 2013 3:46PM
avatar

I buuuuy my wiiiiine at $8.00 a gallllllllllllllon and prouuuuud of iiiiiiiiit.

Jan 11, 2013 3:45PM
avatar
I being a beverage professional here in the US, and one who spends a fair amount of my time correcting misconceptions about Champagne, Burgundy, Chablis and Port for that matter - cannot understand why the United States cannot amend this egregious error.  Simply put, Champagne is a place, then a wine.  Korbel is a sparkling wine, made in California, not France.  Period.  What's the problem.  Hijacking another countries terminology is weak.  It's as American as Crepe Suzette!
Jan 11, 2013 3:45PM
avatar
So if a family with the last name Champagne who own a winery named Champagne Vineyards in Champagne California makes sparking wine, they couldn't just call it Champagne? Weird...
Jan 11, 2013 3:44PM
avatar

france? who gives a rats **** what france thinks.... come to think of it who gives a rats **** what obama drinks.

Jan 11, 2013 3:44PM
avatar

I once knew a dirt-bag lawyer, who put out one of his eyes with a bottle of Dom Perignon. Nice shot, Dom.

 

Jan 11, 2013 3:43PM
avatar

The French Navy prevented the English fleet from rescuing their troops after their defeat at Yorktown. This ensured our independence.

The French gave us the statue of liberty. We have helped them in the 1880's when Phylloxera infected their wines. Our roots were Phylloxera resistant roots were grafted onto their vineyards. To insult their "Champagne" trademark by serving a US sparkling wine  and calling it "champagne" is for those who have no concept of what we owe the French and are oblivious to History.

 

Report
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
Categories
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?

DATA PROVIDERS

Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

Trending NOW

What’s this?

MARKET UPDATE

[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market finished the Tuesday session on the defensive after spending the entire day in a steady retreat. The S&P 500 (-0.6%) posted its third consecutive decline, while the small-cap Russell 2000 (-0.9%) slipped behind the broader market during afternoon action.

Equity indices were pressured from the start following some overnight developments that weighed on sentiment. The market tried to overcome the early weakness, but could not stage a sustained rebound, ... More

MSN MONEY'S