First, a bit of good news: the United States Trade Representative reported on February 14, 2020 that there would be no additional or increased tariffs on European wine for now, meaning that the USTR’s earlier threat of 100% tariffs on all European wine has been deferred. This announcement, no doubt a result of the full-throated public opposition to the 100% tariff, was a relief after two stress-filled months (thanks to all who took the time to comment!). But the news was bittersweet, as the initial 25% tariff remains on all French, German, and Spanish non-sparkling wines of 14% alcohol or less.
So what does this update mean for you going forward?
As I write, Italian wines are not subject to the tariff. That could change, but for the moment, their prices remain unaffected. In light of that, we’re considering ordering even more Italian wine, including many that weren’t yet ready in December — in other words, yes, Sperino Rosa del Rosa 2019 might be heading our way soon!
Also, Sparkling wines are not currently subject to the current tariff, and their prices remain unchanged.
In France, many of our most popular red wines have natural alcohol levels over 14%, including those from Xavier Vignon and most of our producers in Bordeaux, which means they are all exempt from the tariff. Otherwise, we happen to be working with two serendipitous current vintages — both 2018 in Burgundy and 2019 in the Loire Valley were warm and dry growing seasons that produced perfectly balanced, remarkably concentrated wines, with natural alcohols that will keep some of the wines tariff-free. If you’ve already tasted the 2018 Fleurie or Morgon from Patrick Brunet, you know what I mean. And I look forward to tasting Dominique Roger’s Sancerre from the “historic” 2019 vintage (his words, not mine). All three wines just made the cutoff and were not subject to the tariff.
German wines are a different story; they rarely reach 14% alcohol. But remember this: turn-of-the-20th-century wine lists from the Savoy Hotel in London and the RMS Titanic indicate that fine German Rieslings from steep vineyards (like those of Jochen Ratzenberger, Frank Schonleber, and Peter Kühn) fetched higher prices than Château Lafite-Rothschild. For a little perspective, futures on 2018 Lafite are $700/bottle, so a modest price increase on a $25 bottle of world class Riesling isn’t quite so bad. The great news from Germany, with the threat of a 100% tariff now deferred, is that we can now hope that the first wines from Klaus-Peter Keller’s 2019 vintage (“nature did a great job,” he says) will arrive in the Spring.
All in all, we’re happy to share the good news that prices will not rise for many of our most popular wines, and even more previously unavailable wine will soon be on the way. In addition, most of our small-farm suppliers whose wines are subject to the tariff made every accommodation they could, in consideration of the unusually large quantities of wine we moved in December and January.
We hold our breath that the US and the EU will come to an agreement, and that the threat of additions or future increases to the current tariff is ended. In the meantime, we will continue to do everything we can to make navigating the tariff as easy as possible for you.
We look forward to seeing you in the shop soon, and thank you sincerely for your ongoing support of small-farm winegrowers, especially over the past few very uncertain months.
Posted under Learn from Greg