Wine in the White House

by Jana Harvey on January 16, 2009

White House With the upcoming change in our country's President we thought we would share some interesting facts about wine's role in the White House. Ever since Jefferson's time, wine service in the White House has echoed the country's attitude toward the beverage. Records surviving from 1845 document show an extravagant meal, a formal, four-hour affair, that featured a flight of six wines – including pink champagne, ruby Port and Sauternes – served by the expansive Sarah Polk, wife of President James K. Polk. But by the 1870's, when Rutherford B. Hayes was president, the Women's Temperance Movement was gaining momentum, and First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes banned wine and liquor service in the White House.  Ironically, no ban existed during Prohibition, according to anecdotal records of liquor being served by Herbert Hoover during his presidency (1929-1933)  In the early 1960s, when John Kennedy and his wife occupied the White House, French wine was very much in vogue.  The Kennedys preferred Bordeaux.  And while Lyndon Johnson was hardly a wine afficionado, the most important political decision made about wine in the modern day White House was made under his watch when it was decided that only American wines would be served at official functions.  It has been so ever since.  Richard Nixon therefore had no choice but to quaff his favorite French Champagne privately, but the savvy California native made a point of publicly toasting foreign dignitaries with his home state's sparkling wine.  Gerald Ford also displayed his regional bias, but the wine of Michigan didn't make nearly as big a splash.  By the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter had banned the service of Hard liquor under his roof, but he and his wife willingly served wine at state dinners to match the tastes of their guests.  As a former California governor, Ronald Reagan preferred California wines, and they were served liberally during his eight-year tenure in the 1980s. 
(The Wine News Magazine – Wine Service in the President's House)

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