French president Francois Hollande will be confronted with an all-American wine list during his state dinner at the White House with president Barack Obama.
It is nearly 40 years since a single tasting in Paris heralded the ‘arrival’ of California and caused seasoned wine connoisseurs to choke on their claret.
But old rivalries die hard and the US will press its home advantage at the state dinner between presidents Obama and Hollande this evening (11 February).
One source familiar with the situation told decanter.com that the wines served during dinner shall be:
- Thibaut-Janisson’s sparkling ‘Blanc de Chardonnay’ from Monticello, Virginia [vintage unknown]
- Morlet Family Vineyards’ ‘La Proportion Doree’ 2011 from Sonoma County, a white blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and a small amount of Muscadelle.
- Long Shadows Vintnerss’ Chester-Kidder Red Blend 2009 from Columbia Valley, Washington, a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, with Syrah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet France.
The Blanc de Chardonnay sells for less than £20-a-bottle (below $33) and might raise quizzical eyebrows in Champagne.
But, Monticello was home to ex-US president Thomas Jefferson, who was also minister to France and principal author of the US Declaration of Independence – which could at least help Hollande and Obama to find early common ground over their nations’ past travails with the British.
Having said that, Obama served the same wine when British prime minister David Cameron visited the White House in 2012.
As for the other wines, the Chester-Kidder is the equivalent of around £25-to-£30 per bottle in the US. Long Shadows lists the ’09 as ‘sold out’ on its website. Morlet’s Proportion Doree is the priciest, selling for more than £40-a-bottle.
Serving wine at state functions is an exercise in liquid diplomacy. The British government, for example, grades its wines according to the calibre of guest, and takes a certain delight in showing off its stash of French ‘national treasures’ to state visitors from across the Channel.
In the US, the White House is known for its American-only wine policy.
And yet, if the prices for the wines at Obama and Hollande’s dinner seem slightly underwhelming for the occasion – though that’s not an automatic judgement on their quality – perhaps that’s at least half the point in these austere times; when the prying eyes of the press are primed to spot any shimmer of inappropriate decadence funded by the public purse.
Written by Chris Mercer