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Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP via Getty Images

Organizers of La Fête du Champagne 2021 popped corks Monday night, after the Biden administration's decision to let fully vaccinated travelers from around the world back into the U.S. starting in November.

Driving the news: Hundreds of top U.S. enthusiasts and collectors were set to attend the event in New York, which had been set for Oct. 9–16. But because of the travel ban, the guests of honor — more than 30 top small and large producers — seemed destined to be stuck across the Atlantic.

  • Festival co-founder Daniel Johnnes told Axios now he's scrambling to rebook for November so everyone can come.

What they're saying: "It's a very exciting moment for us," said Johnnes, who's also the wine director for chef Daniel Boulud and the creator of La Paulée, the major annual gathering celebrating Burgundy. "I’ve heard from a number of French who are celebrating in their wineries that they’re finally going to get to come."

  • La Paulée's 2020 gathering took place in March just days before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, he said. "We were the last major festival before the world shut down. And it looks like we’re going to be the first festival after we open our borders again."

Why it matters: Bien sur, this falls into the category of first-world problems. But Johnnes makes a case for "Champagne diplomacy" and the parallels between the worlds of wine and politics.

  • Today's tensions between the U.S. and France extend beyond travel — into nuclear submarine technology — but the allies moved past political tensions around the start of the Iraq war, including the movement to call French fries "freedom fries."
  • "People have grown up and said, 'Let the politicians do their thing, we love French wine.' ... We have to move on."

How it works: The festival includes a series of small dinners with rare Champagnes, building up to a Saturday grand tasting and massive dinner where participants bring bottles from their personal cellars.

  • COVID-19 has forced some precautions: All participants must be vaccinated, and there will be larger than normal spacing between tables.
  • The conversation around Champagne today "is really focused around the small grower and the terroir," though that's left big Champagne houses feeling somewhat threatened. "We insisted to the growers and the big Champagne growers, 'Hey, y0u’re going to be in the same room together.' It’s kind of like a peace conference. They have to co-exist."

The bottom line: "I’m going to drink a bottle of Champagne tonight," Johnnes said Monday.

Go deeper

Linh Ta, author of Des Moines
Oct 7, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Des Moines winery sees demand for cans

Cans of wine from Jasper Winery. Photos courtesy of Jasper Winery

Canned wines sales skyrocketed in 2020, and there's no looking back, according to the L.A. Times.

State of play: As we said goodbye to white-linen dinners and hello to hikes and picnics last year, our wine habits followed.

  • In March 2020, canned wine accounted for 0.7% of off-premise wine sales. It nearly doubled to 1.2% of wine dollars this last summer.
  • The biggest fans? Young drinkers between age 21-34 represent 15% of bottled wine buyers, but 26% of canned wine buyers, the Times reports.

Inside Biden's Taiwan flubs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Twice this year, President Biden has blurted out commitments that the U.S. is prepared to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion — forcing the White House to walk back his statements and leading to confusion over a high-stakes national security policy.

Why it matters: U.S. defense officials have publicly aired their concerns that China will take Taiwan by force in the next four to six years, perhaps sooner. The president's position on this question may soon have real-world, life and death consequences.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.