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White House banquet wines revealed

The names of the wines served at the Obama-Cameron state banquet on Wednesday night have been revealed, despite the White House's efforts to keep them under wraps.

White House: favours ‘juvenile behemoths’

President Obama was stung at criticism of the price of wines chosen for the state banquet of Chinese President Hu Jintao in January last year – one of them was the 2005 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington which regularly sells for over US$300.

At the next state dinner, for German Chancellor Angela Merkel in June, the menu was made public but not the wines.

Wednesday night’s selection remained under wraps for about 12 hours before being revealed by one of the guests, Cellartracker founder Eric Levine.

With the canapes was a NV Thibaut-Janisson Brut from Virginia, which retails at around US$30.

Accompanying the first course of crisped halibut with potato crust served on a bed of braised baby kale fresh from the White House garden, shaved Brussels sprouts and micro cabbage sprouts with a hint of applewood smoked bacon from a local smokehouse, was Peter Michael Chardonnay Ma Belle Fille 2009, which sells for around US$80.

Then with the Bison Wellington came Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2008, also around US$65.

Lastly, with the steamed lemon pudding prepared with Idaho Huckleberry Sauce and Newtown Pippin apples, sparkling wine Iron Horse Russian River Cuvee 2007 (US$30) was served.

Levine, on the Cellartracker blog, was guarded in his compliments.

The Peter Michael was ‘prototypical Cali Chard…reasonably refreshing’, while the Cabernet Sauvignon was ‘not so civilized’ with a ‘somewhat tart and spiky finish’.

The most damaging aspect of the affair, many will note, is the President’s unwillingness to heed the advice of the online magazine slate.com, which, Decanter.com reported in 2009, had strongly criticised the poor state of the White House cellars.

The current stock of 500 bottles was ‘a pathetic example of how America’s infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate,’ journalist Mike Steinberger said.

And the ‘American wines only’ policy was a travesty: ‘The preference for ‘juvenile behemoth’ fruit bombs over wines with delicacy, finesse and ageing potential, is similar to the ‘shock and awe’ tactics of the Bush regime’s foreign policy, he added.

The White House has not commented, while a Downing Street spokesman told Decanter.com, ‘We were their guests so we would not comment on the choice of wine.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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