Wine is under attack. The biggest threat to the wine business today is an increase in tariffs on imported wines.
As many of you know, the first tariff increase has already taken effect: As of late October, it adds 25 percent to the cost importers pay for most wines and spirits imported from many European producers. This tariff could have a chilling effect on European wine sales in the coming months.
And if that isn’t bad enough, the U.S. government is contemplating raising the tariffs to 100 percent on an even larger list of European products. The rationale is to retaliate against illegal subsidies from European governments to their aircraft industries. But the wine industry is caught in the crossfire. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has announced that it is considering new, higher tariffs on many European food products, including all wines. This new round of increased tariffs could include sparkling wines, dessert wines, wine in large-format bottles, and wines at all alcohol levels, not just those under 14 percent. (These tariffs are unrelated to the 100 percent tariffs on French sparkling wines that President Donald Trump has threatened in response to France's tax on large digital companies.)
One importer, who runs a family business that specializes in European wines, wrote me a letter. He said, “These fees would have a devastating impact on the American companies like mine that import wine into the United States, as well as other businesses that sell and serve wines imported from Europe. U.S. retailers, wholesalers, distributors, and importers—all of which employ hard-working Americans located across this country—could be harmed if these imports are faced with increased tariffs, and in response to a trade dispute that has nothing to do with wine.”
Everyone in the wine business, and anyone who loves wine, should take the time to comment.
Wine is a deeply rooted and economically valuable part of our culture. The wine business is a global network that includes family producers, farmers, restaurateurs and other small businesses as well as large international companies. These people are innocent victims of the trade war. They deserve our support.
Marvin R. Shanken
Editor and publisher