A duel with bottles of Champagne, illustration by Emile Marcelin (1825-1887)
De Agostini via Getty Images
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard Donald J. Trump, the impeached president and a teetotaler, has proposed a 100% tariff on European wine. It’s the Trump administration’s response to what he sees as a two-fold trade issue: France’s digital services tax on American big tech companies, and the European Union’s financial support for the aerospace company Airbus, a major competitor of Boeing.
The first wave of tariffs hit in October 2019 when a 25% tariff was imposed on wines from France, Germany and Spain. Most businesses took the bullet to keep prices and their relationships with producers in check.
Fast forward to current situation. For consumers, the proposed tariff could mean their favorite wines from the Old World might be less available—if at all. Because, contrary to what Trump says, America is not necessarily first—at least not with producers who see HUGELY, BIGLY markets in China and other white-hot wine-consuming countries.
A 100% tariff is not a bullet: It’s potentially a bloodbath. And that’s not just because producers will send fewer bottles here: It’s because many of the small gears that work together to bring imported wine to your table—importers, distributors, retailers, restaurants—will cease motion. (And if you think “sure, we’ll just drink more California Cab,” read this blog post from Jason Haas, partner and general manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard, a major producer in Paso Robles, Calif.: No, 100% tariffs on European wines won’t be good for California wineries.)
Petitions and pleas abound online (tomorrow, this space will include information on how to speak up). And today, a group of industry professionals from large and small businesses went to Washington, D.C., to testify at a hearing of the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) about how the proposed tariffs will impact the industry.
Want to pop the cork on the issues? These stories are good explainers:
Wine Business Fears a Possible Disaster in Potential Trump Tariffs New York Times
“A move meant to impose pain on the European Union may jeopardize many American jobs and businesses, while putting popular wines out of reach.”
Trump’s tariffs on European wine have American businesses begging for relief cnn.com
“Many small business owners said that these duties would inflict harm on US companies, workers and consumers — rather than resolve the US issue with aircraft makers or digital service industry.”
The New Tariffs Threaten Your Grocery Bills and Global Wine Culture Wine Enthusiast
“American consumers will also feel the pinch on everything from grocery bills to anniversary dinners, and our national wine industry and culture could be dramatically altered.”
Proposed tariffs could send some European wine prices out of reach Washington Post
“The Trump administration is ratcheting up a long-festering trade dispute with the European Union by proposing 100 percent tariffs on a variety of European goods, including whiskies, cheeses and wines. If imposed and maintained, these tariffs could have a devastating impact on the specialty foods industry, as well as wine importers and retailers, most of which are small businesses.”
What Would 100 Percent Tariffs Mean for You? Wine Spectator
“Prices would go up, but vintners and industry analysts say the bigger threat is that many European wines would simply disappear from American store shelves.”
The Insanity of Trump’s Wine Tariffs New York Times Opinion
“He wants to punish Europe — but thousands of American businesses will suffer instead.”
Why 2020 Is Looking Dangerous for Wine Lovers Food & Wine
“A looming 100-percent tariff will be a disaster for anyone who loves European wines. Here’s what you can do to help stop it.”
European Tariffs Threaten the Entire American Wine Industry Vine Pair
“The ongoing dispute, which could escalate imminently, currently threatens every level of America’s wine industry. Though it appears that European products are being targeted, it’s U.S. businesses, taxpaying employees, and even domestic wineries that find themselves in the crossfire.”
Wine industry faces dramatic and ‘calamitous’ impact with Trump administration’s proposed tariffs Los Angeles Times
“A wide swath of wine businesses in the U.S. also would be negatively affected, including importers, distributors, wine shop owners, sommeliers and grocery story wine buyers. Many said they feared having to impose salary and staffing cuts as a result of dramatically reduced profit margins.”
What A Fight Between Airplane-Makers Means For French Wine npr.org
“The U.S. and Europe have been arguing over subsidies to Airbus and Boeing for years. But now businesses with no connection to aviation — and U.S. consumers — are paying the price.”
Proposed wine tariffs could spur widespread Charleston restaurant closures, opponents warn Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)
“A pair of proposed tariffs which would double the cost of imported European wine could devastate the Charleston area restaurant industry, members of the local wine community say.”
Atlanta Sommeliers Express Concern Over the Trump Administration’s Proposed European Wine Tariffs Eater Atlanta
“Atlanta’s wine lovers could soon shell out more cash for their favorite European wines if the tariffs go into effect.”
France vows to retaliate against latest Trump tariffs on wine and cheese Markets Insider
“the European Union could collectively retaliate against the move.”
Proposed imported wine tariffs worry small business owners wnyt.com
“Proposed imported wine tariffs and more last month from the Trump administration are prompting local small business owners to speak out about the impact it would have” (Albany, NY)
Hey, even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce doesn’t like the idea!
Trade Works. Tariffs Don’t.
“Tariffs threaten to derail our nation’s recent economic resurgence.”
Tomorrow: How to speak up and out in support of the wine industry.