obama champagne

Plans to serve California “Champagne”, rather than French Champagne, at President Obama’s inauguration banquet are putting a crimp in Franco-American relations.

Champagne producers in France, who are very protective of the singular nature of their product, were not necessarily upset that California-made bubbly is to be served at lunch after President Barack Obama’s January 21 swearing-in.

But the official menu from organizers — which includes steamed lobster, hickory grilled bison, apple pie and “Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvee Champagne, California” — released Wednesday definitely raised hackles.

“Champagne only comes from Champagne,” Sam Heitner, the director of the US Champagne Bureau, told AFP, referring to the French region outside Paris where the festive fizzy beverage is produced.

The name may seem a trifling matter, but Europeans are striving to protect the names of regional and traditional foods originating from specific regions, such as French champagne and Parmesan cheese made in Parma, Italy.

The United States and the European Union in 2006 signed a deal banning US producers from using the word “champagne” on their labels — but the law was not retroactive, so producers like Korbel can still use the French term.