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Food FYI: California ‘Champagne’ at inauguration upsets French

California "Champagne" to be served at President Obama's inauguration irks French bubbly lobby.
(Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press)

Plans to serve California bubbly (listed on the menu as “Champagne”), rather than real French Champagne, at President Obama’s inauguration banquet later this month are putting a crimp in Franco-American relations, says Money & Co. blog.

On the menu is “Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvee Champagne, California,” which will accompany an apple tart for dessert, according to a news release from the inauguration committee. But a Washington, D.C., lobby for France’s Champagne industry says Champagne comes only from the region of Champagne, France, and bubbly from elsewhere should be referred to as “sparkling wine.” Agence France-Presse first reported the kerfuffle.

The lobby’s director, Sam Heitner, is writing a protest letter to the luncheon’s host, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, and its chairman, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), says the Hill.

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Most countries don’t allow wine not produced in France’s Champagne region to be called Champagne, says the Champagne Bureau’s website. But U.S. law allows some domestic vintners to use “Champagne” if the name of the wine includes the origin of the grapes.

The label of the inaugural dessert wine actually reads “Korbel Russian River Valley Natural Champagne,” said Margie Healy, a spokeswoman for the Sonoma Valley winemaker. She said the name will be fixed when the menu is reprinted.

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