After Pouring a $300 Bottle, White House Mum on Wine

Ends state dinner tradition of releasing info about the wine list
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2012 9:38 AM CDT
Wine glasses sit on a table during the State Dinner with Barack Obama and Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, on the South Lawn at the White House on June 7, 2011 in Washington, DC.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Last night, British PM David Cameron enjoyed his very first taste of March Madness, compliments of President Obama. At tonight's state dinner, he'll likely enjoy some American wine as well—but don't expect too many details about the winery, year, or appellation. That's because Obama put a stop to the tradition of revealing said info after his third state dinner ... following a brouhaha over the price tag. In honor of Hu Jintao's visit, the Chinese president was served a 2005 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington state that garnered a 100-point Robert Parker rating. The White House didn't say how much it paid per bottle, but it originally retailed for $115, and was selling for $300 and up by the time of the Jan. 19, 2011, dinner.

So when Angela Merkel was honored at a state dinner in June, the released menu said nothing more than "an American wine will be paired with each course." Ditto for South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak's Oct. 13 menu. And while the move may ostensibly make sense ("they’re probably sensitive to displays of wealth at a time when the economy is not firing on all cylinders," says one wine expert), many argue the move hurts, instead of helps. Promoting top winemakers "is good for America," says one wine editor, and Bloomberg notes that state dinners provide a prime opportunity to show China and other new big wine importers what the US has to offer. To wit, Quilceda Creek saw a "pretty significant" uptick in Asia after Hu's dinner.

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