Stop The Wine Tariffs

The threatened 100% tariffs on wines from the EU will result in a number of American wine importers closing down and going out of business. The proposed 100% tariffs on wines from the European Union will wreck a great number of small independent wine stores and wine bars. Many of the remaining small wholesalers will also be knocked for a loop. But don’t worry. Total Wine & More will survive. So will Southern Glazers.

But, in the end, at least Boeing will be on better financial footing if and when the tariffs do their job and subsidies for Airbus are revoked or lowered by the Europeans. So that should be a potent silver lining for the many folks who lose their jobs and businesses in the wake of a long tariff war.

If you are wondering what kind of businesses will be most impacted by the proposed 100% tariffs, many of you will be interested to know that is the importers who specialize in Natual Wine and the importers that bring over the small production, family produced wines that will either have to price their portfolio of wines far too high or partially eat the cost of tariffs. Then there are the small, independent retailers who sell these wines and the other small production, highly coveted wines, and those that do self importation that will also be turned around in the face of margins that are too low and wines that are now over-priced.

But, if in response to the 100% tariffs, the Europeans relent and stop punishing Boeing by subsidizing Airbus, then we can use this American victory and the uplift it will provide to President Trump as a balm to apply to the wounds left on the U.S. wine industry. So there’s that.

Marvin Shanken, publisher of the venerable Wine Spectator Magazine and not one to get too political in print, noted in an editorial a few days ago that:

“Wine is under attack. The biggest threat to the wine business today is an increase in tariffs on imported wines….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.”

He’s right.

So, if you believe that imposing 100% tariffs on European wines, causing the destruction of primarily small, American wine businesses, and huge increases to wine consuming American consumers is the wrong thing to do, then here is a small but important step you can take:







Re: Opposition to Tariffs on Imported Wine from the European Union

Dear Amb. Lighthizer:

I am writing as a customer and consumer of imported and domestic wines that is concerned with the multiple rounds of tariffs that are being imposed and considered on wine from the European Union (“EU”), particularly the proposed 100% tariffs on EU wines. I strongly urge you not to punish me, or my fellow wine lovers, or the hardworking wine retailers, restaurateurs, importers and distributors for problems we didn’t cause. It’s unfair at face value. You should punish those responsible. Punishing Airbus and their suppliers and French digital services companies would be much more effective, as well as fair.

Because of these import tariffs, the prices will go up dramatically for wine. Margins on wine are extremely small, and the sale of wine is highly regulated, with virtually every state imposing a three-tier distribution system with markups occurring at each tier of distribution. Thus, a 25-percent tariff on wine imports will likely result in a 50-percent increase and a 100-percent tariff on wine imports will likely result in a 150-percent increase in prices for a consumer like me.

There is no substitute for imports of wine from the EU. Wines from the EU are different from domestic wines and wines from other countries as a matter of consumer taste. 

As a wine consumer, I do not understand why individual consumers like me should suffer because of a dispute involving Boeing and Airbus. Retaliatory tariffs on these matters should target Airbus and their suppliers who benefitted from the subsidies or French digital services companies.


In addition to running a wine PR Consulting firm (Wark Communications), writing, and publishing a blog, I am also the Executive Director of the National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR)—a national organization of smaller, independent wine retailers. In that capacity, I have received phone calls from and spoken to retailers, importers, and foreign producers who are straight-up frightened for their future over these proposed tariffs. I tell them that NAWR’s members have worked to rally their customers and clients to oppose these proposed tariffs. I tell them NAWR is working in Washington, DC to oppose these tariffs. I tell them that we will be testifying in front of the U.S. Trade Representative against these tariffs.

But what I really tell them most forcefully is that hundreds of thousands of consumers must be rallied to oppose these tariffs if there is any hope of stopping the carnage that will result from their imposition.

If you are a winery, a retailer, a restaurateur, an importer, a wholesaler, any other member of the wine trade or a consumer, you should do the same.

7 Responses

  1. Peter A Ricci - January 2, 2020

    Dear President Trump,

    How dare you infringe on my wine drinking just to protect the aerospace industry. Those small mom and pop companies that supply Boeing can find other sources of income. Just because the EU is throwing their weight around and hurt US companies how dare you stand up to them. I can understand how some of the public sees the wine industry as arrogant and has an elitist mentality just because we put ourselves ahead of our country.

    From deep in my wine cave,

  2. Tom Wark - January 2, 2020

    Dear President Trump:

    As a small wine retailer here in the U.S. I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve my country by closing down my business and firing my employeees. It’s the least I and my employees can do to help augment Boeing’s $100 Billion in annual revenue.

    One question, however. Will I and my employees be receiving some sort of cash payment from the federal government way some farmers have? It will help tide us over when we lose our jobs and businesses.


    The Newly Unemployed Person Person Who Is Always Happy to Help Boeing Retain Their $100 Billion in Annual Revenue

  3. Austin Beeman - January 2, 2020

    Hi Tom,

    One important clarification. As I understand it, all form letters are considered only one “vote.” Changing the text is crucial to making the letter be accepted.

    Our representatives have also communicated that the Change Org Petition is important.

    Thanks for helping shine the light on this.

  4. Bob Whitelatch - January 2, 2020

    I’m not sure why it was for the good of the country for all of the American Wineries to lose all of our trade with China as a result of the 125% tariff, a market that was quickly filled by the European wine industry. Excuse me if I don’t break out in tears. Instead of the glass being half empty, perhaps the wine retails can use this is a opportunity to sell American. I know for a fact that CA/OR/WA are long in inventory and I believe I can speak for all of my fellow wineries when I say we can fill the breach.

    So instead of sitting around whining, put on your big boy/girl pants,get off your butt and go support out national industry and sell some homegrown wine.

  5. Austin Beeman - January 2, 2020

    “I believe I can speak for all of my fellow wineries when I say we can fill the breach.”
    for which wineries do you speak with you comment here?

    Every winery American Winery that I’ve spoken to believes that this will devastate their distribution. Small USA wineries need the small family distributors and the small family distributors need good value imports to stay in business.

    Also, when you eliminate competition, local producers lose their incentive to produce better quality at lower prices. It is the wine drinker that gets screwed.

  6. Peter Zelek - January 3, 2020

    Frankly, I also consider this a conflict of interest since the Trump family owns a winery and is likely to directly benefit from any shortage or increased pricing of EU wines.

  7. Lenny Pepperidge - January 8, 2020

    Slight problem, Bob. While I don’t profess to know what your distribution network is comprised of, if you do use smaller, independent wholesalers just know that most likely it’s good value wine from France, Italy and Spain that’s keeping their lights on and allowing them to do the uphill job of selling more expensive domestic wines that many might not have heard of. And if those distributors are in some of the major eurocentric metropolitan markets such as NYC, DC or Chicago, just know that your precious tariffs may very well cost you distribution in those markets.

    To paraphrase the great Tucker McElroy (lead singer and driver of the Winnebago), “it’s hard to fill the breach with no frickin’ distributor or salespeople.”

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