Wine makers toast a new wine drinker in the White House

Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:11am EST
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - The wine world is raising a glass to President Barack Obama as he moves into the White House, hoping his enjoyment of U.S. wine will impact on American's drinking habits.

U.S. wine producers could hardly contain their glee at the news that the Obamas had bought a $1.65 million mansion in Chicago equipped with four fireplaces -- and a wine cellar that reportedly holds up to 1,000 bottles.

"I can't help but think that after eight years of no wine drinkers in the White House that (Obama) will have a felicitous effect on Americans' drinking habits," John Gillespie, head of the Wine Market Council, told the 2009 Wine Market Council Research Conference in New York.

Outgoing President George W. Bush is a teatotaler who gave up alcohol over 20 years ago.

The White House has no official wine cellar but wines are chosen by a small team for specific events, based on their affinity with the menu as well as politically correct pairing depending on the guests in attendance.

But all wines served at state dinners are American.

President Lyndon Johnson decreed only American wines should be served at White House state dinners and it has stayed the same ever since -- although President Richard Nixon reportedly had his beloved Chateau Margaux secretly poured.

The contents of Obama's own wine cellar remain unknown but Chicago area merchants have noted Obama's eclectic taste in wine.   Continued...

<p>A man tastes red wine in the Millesima cellar in Bordeaux, southwestern France, southwestern France, June 20, 2008. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau</p>