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Wine Kerfuffle Stains Vietnamese Banquet for French President


FILE - French President Francois Hollande (L) and his Vietnamese counterpart Tran Dai Quang shake hands at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, Sept. 6, 2016.

FILE - French President Francois Hollande (L) and his Vietnamese counterpart Tran Dai Quang shake hands at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, Sept. 6, 2016.

Vietnam's government has drawn criticism for its choice of imported wine at this week's welcome banquet for French President Francois Hollande.

Photos published by local media show bottles of Australian-made alcoholic beverages alongside Vietnamese specialty dishes. Diplomats from the Australian Embassy in Hanoi took to Facebook to congratulate "Vietnam's excellent taste" in serving the French president wines produced in New South Wales.

Vietnamese netizens, however, lambasted government officials for neglecting to showcase Vietnam's famous local brands, including Dalat Red Wine of the country's Central Highlands.

Members of the honor guard prepare for the arrival of France's President Francois Hollande at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, Sept. 6, 2016.

Members of the honor guard prepare for the arrival of France's President Francois Hollande at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, Sept. 6, 2016.

Reader Nhan Thanh wrote on VOA Vietnamese's social media fanpage that "it is not worth debating," as "without a doubt, Vietnamese wine is not of good quality."

Others cited France's famed wines as one reason that Hollande was likely oblivious to what he drank.

Meanwhile, Hai Duong, quality control officer of Dalat Wine Company, said he supports the idea of serving Vietnamese wine to foreign dignitaries.

"It should have been done. Dalat wine is local top-quality product and Vietnam's pride," he told VOA. "It was served at official functions during APEC 14 [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] forum held in Vietnam [in 2006]."

Nguyen Van Tuan, a wine dealer in southern Ho Chi Minh City, echoed Duong's opinion, calling Dalat the most popular locally made wine.

The banquet's organizing committee could not be reached for comment, but Vietnamese media quoted the chef as saying dishes were chosen to reflect Vietnamese cuisine to make an impression on the French leader.

Hollande, who concluded his two-day visit to Vietnam on Wednesday, is the first French president to travel to the Southeast Asian country in over a decade. During his visit, he oversaw the signing of lucrative trade deals, including a $6.5 billion agreement to have French aircraft manufacturer Airbus manufacture 40 planes.

In 2009, Vietnam launched a huge campaign urging Vietnamese people to use Made-in-Vietnam products to show "patriotism and national pride."

In a separate move, Vietnamese businesses have recently called on consumers to use local goods to display their loyalty in the face of China's assertive behavior in the South China Sea.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Vietnamese Service.

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