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.


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457Comments
Jan 11, 2013 6:14PM
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Ramblinwreck - true, France helped us win the Revolution. But dont forget, more AMERICANS died then French, helping them on on their own beaches of Normandy becuase they were to weak to fend for themselves!!
Jan 11, 2013 6:13PM
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Why serve chilled champagne in Washington DC when they could serve chilled water pipes filled with chronic in Washington State.  Just saying.

 

Jan 11, 2013 6:11PM
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why would I like my tax dollars pay for champagne? Let Obama pay for the beer. It is a lot cheaper.

and it would let  tax payers ignorehis spending.

Confess up mr.O you likespending other people's money.

 Oh, the Frenc ies' crying ,  forget about it.

Jan 11, 2013 6:09PM
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The French are having a tantrum forgetting that certain types of manufacture and naming become cultural norms in the public domain after a FEW HUNDRED FREAKING YEARS! What most Yanks don't know is that France has quietly become one of the most overregulated nations on earth with their version of GOVGOONS sticking their noses into everything.

We applaud the Prez for selecting American bubbly to be served at the inaugural events. Now let's start the "BUY AMERICAN" ethic in earnest and support our own grass roots products!!!! What a concept.

Jan 11, 2013 6:09PM
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What do you expect from that bunch of rednecks living in the White House?
Jan 11, 2013 6:07PM
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It's spelled Cham pain and provides .2% more bubbles up your nose.

Jan 11, 2013 6:07PM
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Who forgot to tell France they weren't invited.  Shey cun soch wee wee!
Jan 11, 2013 6:05PM
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If the French get any more irritated they may surrender.
Jan 11, 2013 6:05PM
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Maybe the French in Champagne can start making French bourbon, I'm pretty sure those guys in KY won't mind since Bourbon is actually in France.
Jan 11, 2013 6:05PM
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It just had to have the word Russia in it! There are many more important things that many dont like about Obama.

  Marxist elitist. Is he really a constitutional scholar? Hard to beleave.

Jan 11, 2013 6:02PM
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The Fench should be happy........at least there will be a French flag at every seat, other wise known to us Yankees as  a napkin.
Jan 11, 2013 5:57PM
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frankly I don't give a rat's behind what the hell BHO drank for lunch.  My payroll taxes went up, so I'm paying more to support the illegals and paying for his lunch.  thanks a lot Barry.  keep up the good work.  now how about the recession we are still in with prices for necessities sky rocketing and you and Congress sitting on your thumbs.
Jan 11, 2013 5:57PM
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Looks like a little liberal elitist on liberal elitist crime here.

Jan 11, 2013 5:54PM
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let's see french vines were smuggled out of france to america, then the european vines died out, then the american vines were brought back to france.

So what if "champagne" is only supposed be called by that name if it came from the town in france, the town's vines came from america which came from france which means all the vines are the same!!!  go figure 

Jan 11, 2013 5:52PM
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Gee, and all I had was Schweppe's (American!) Ginger Ale!?!
Jan 11, 2013 5:52PM
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Want to know what irritates me? The fact that he is having an inauguration at all!!! He is already President all that needs to be done is to swear him in for his 2nd term in office. I think it is absurd that with the economy of this country being in the state that it is, he is going to spend millions of dollars on an inauguration to an office that he already holds. Just swear him in and get on with the business of running this country.
Jan 11, 2013 5:50PM
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Screw champagne, he should be drinking a can of PBR like every other red-blooded American. France can keep their bourgeois wine and weirdo armpit hair. What's next, instead of steak they'll be serving pita and granola bars? The french don't like it when we call things by the wrong name? ok, that goes both ways, we'll stop calling american sparkling wine "Champagne" when they stop calling their sissy collection of prancing buffoons an "Army". Peace I'm Out!
Jan 11, 2013 5:50PM
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Does anyone really give a hank about what the French have to say? I myself would rather eat dirt from a stable than drink anything that comes from France. I even feel perplexed that I have enough respect for them to capitalize the words French and France. I guess that is a matter of English grammar. OK, my linguistic integrity is intact.

 

   FRANCE........GET A LIFE!!!!!

Jan 11, 2013 5:47PM
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The unmentioned, but most important question here is whether the "Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvée Champagne, California" served with the dessert at the inaugural lunch will properly tickle the noses of the guests?  If it does, well, ... "mission accomplished."
Jan 11, 2013 5:44PM
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bowling alley budweiser is what the white house prefers. know what i mean, vern?

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