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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Jan 11, 2013 5:23PM
So what, pity the poor French that this is all they have to complain about.  They better look after their high unemployment and extremely high tax rates first.  Of course, Mr Obama is heading us in that direction as well.
Jan 11, 2013 5:21PM
obama doesnt care about the law and his taste in wine is in the gutter he came from
Jan 11, 2013 5:20PM

obama and his minions dont care about the law - what are you thinking???

Jan 11, 2013 5:18PM
take some sauterne add club soda, as good as it gets
Jan 11, 2013 5:17PM
I would rather US president's inaugural's luncheon menu contains american sparkling wines and american products than any other countries. 
Jan 11, 2013 5:15PM

The danger to America is not Barack Obama, but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America . Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, 'merely a fool'. It is far less likely to survive a multitude of fools, such as those who made him their President.

Jan 11, 2013 5:15PM



Jan 11, 2013 5:15PM
Someone cares what the French think about anything??????????????????????Who  was it??I dont know of anything.All the poor devils have is their " glorious " history and hatred and jealousy of all things American.Oh well. Let them stew.
Jan 11, 2013 5:14PM
When in France don't drink the water.
Jan 11, 2013 5:13PM
Champagne is a brand name.  It deserves protection just like any other brand name.  Champagne is a region of France where the grapes are used to produce a sparkling wine with the Champagne method.  We would not allow Chile to call their wine Napa and Korbel would not allow China to call their wine Korbel style.   If we want the world to respect our brand names then we need to respect theirs.  The reason the law says 2006 is because that is when the US lost a WTO battle over the use of the name.  Up until then the French champagne producers thought that it was obvious that only French bottles were actually champagne. 
Jan 11, 2013 5:13PM

Can you imagine what a good old American institution like the Coca Cola company would do if some French firm produced a look alike beverage and Labeled it as "Coke". Come on people, quit picking on the French, this isn't an issue of nationality. What's going on here is just standard maneuvering of the international monopoly capitalists. It's the same old corporate greed mongers doing what they do best, protecting their own private dung heap.

Jan 11, 2013 5:13PM
Hell let's just give France Obama and his clan. That would solve a whole lot of problems in this world.
Jan 11, 2013 5:12PM
The ignorant French have no idea of taste and keeping their freakin mouths shut is a sighn of good taste.      Igonorant people
Jan 11, 2013 5:11PM

Depardieu's departure.... for tax reasons? LOL  If his departure was for tax reasons then there are other countries closer to France and where the weather and the food is fantastic  without going to Russia.

Anyhoo all that fresh air and vodka etc, before long he will have shed pounds and will be all buff like Putin. LOL   

So what is his real reason for going to Russia?

Wonder what these folks who are leaving their country because they are too greedy, cheap, selfish, mean and miserly to pay their fair share of taxes going to do when the country they have decided to cadge off raise taxes there too?  THink these countries are going to put up with an influx of rich freeloaders who contribute nothing to their economy or tax base for long? What are these countries going to do when these  'jobs creators' create no jobs?

Jan 11, 2013 5:09PM

Maybe the French should try to improve the Renault, The Peugeot, The Citroen, and see if they can compete on the automobile world stage ( HA HA HA HA HA) before trashing anyone else making wine/champagne !

Jan 11, 2013 5:07PM

YEAH  OBummer IRRiTates My PETRO Hole since He wont Let us Drill for Oil and Gas here too


Jan 11, 2013 5:04PM
Frack the French rot gut committee
Jan 11, 2013 5:03PM
avatar much of the taxpayers money are we going to waste on Champagne?  I have a better idea.....why not serve Kool Aid?  After all over half of the Americans drank it before they voted.....
Jan 11, 2013 5:01PM
Well, at least it's French businessmen, and not the French government humiliating themselves this time.
Jan 11, 2013 5:00PM
Who cares anyway...didn't read the article just saw the headline. Rediculous!
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