The Wine Institute of California has a new director of federal relations to represent the group’s interests in Washington DC.

Sarah Hope Murphy – known as Sally – is a veteran political lobbyist who has been in Washington since 1978. She comes to the wine industry after 15 years representing the telecommunications industry.

Murphy replaces Bobby Koch, who left this job in July last year to take up the post of CEO of the Wine Institute.

‘What I am able to bring to the job is an understanding of how Capitol Hill and the administration works,’ she told decanter.com. ‘Spending as long as I have in Washington makes you sensitive to what members of Congress need to know when discussing issues of importance to the Institute.’

Murphy will be dealing with such areas as alcohol taxation, inter-state wine shipments, barriers to state and international trade, and international branding.

‘I regard all of these areas as priorities,’ she said. ‘The wine industry is a vibrant and growing industry – they are all equally important issues.’

On the highly sensitive issue of international branding – whether US companies should be allowed to use semi-generic brand names such as Champagne, Chablis, Roquefort, Parmesan and others for products not made in those European regions – Murphy feels the status quo should be maintained.

‘I think it is slightly disingenuous and unfair for groups to say we have to stop using these names when the products have been made here for generations, with skills brought over from Europe in the first place.’

Murphy also said she would continue to lobby for government funds to combat the threat of Pierce’s Disease, which is prevalent in Southern California. Previous administrations have put millions of dollars into the fight against the glassy-winged sharpshooter, the insect which spreads the disease.

Her own interests in wine are wide-ranging. As soon as she finishes a (short) period of New Year abstinence she will be opening ‘a bottle of delicious California wine.’

‘I am just delighted to be where I am,’ she said. ‘It is a real honour to represent this industry.’

Written by Adam Lechmere