Champagne Lobby Bubbling in DC

A bartender pours champagne.

Photograph by Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg

A bartender pours champagne.

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, was an unabashed Francophile.

George Washington had France to thank for helping defeat the British at Yorktown, effectively ending the Revolutionary War. Jefferson was dispatched to Paris as ambassador for the nascent American democracy, and returned with an appreciation for fine wine.

Now, as the 238th anniversary of American independence approaches, public records show France is drawing a line in that alliance, stepping up its fight to keep champagne knock-offs from the U.S. and other nations from tainting the international market for bubbly.

“Champagne only comes from Champagne, France,” the Bureau du Champagne USA says in a banner at the top of its website.  Anything else is simply Methode Champenoise.

The French champagne industry has hired Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP — one of Washington’s top law firms — to lobby on its behalf, according to a disclosure form filed with the Senate and made public July 1. (The lobbyists actually registered on May 20.)

The group is the Washington representative for the French trade organization for grape growers from the Champagne region in the northeastern part of the nation.

France’s position on champagne has long been known, and it’s expected to be a point of contention in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement now being negotiated between the U.S. and the 28-nation European Union. But the lobbying form makes clear that France also wants to bolster protections for champagne in U.S. talks for a Pacific-region trade deal and an investment treaty with China.

Officials from the Bureau du Champagne and the lobbyists themselves weren’t immediately available to comment. Their position on all this, and resolve to fight for it,  is as clear as a fine Brut:

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