Wine Talk: The Wine Tariff 2-Step

August 24, 2020 Updated: August 27, 2020

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative appears to be doing a dance around the issue of tariffs imposed on some European wines in October 2019. A 25 percent tariff was levied on some table wines from France, Germany, Spain, and the UK. It has been described as retaliation for illegal subsidies to Airbus about a decade ago.

Since then, the trade office has dangled the threat of increasing the tariff to 100 percent if the European Union refused to come to the negotiating table. If you enjoy French or Spanish wines, the impact of a 100 percent tariff would be devastating, of course.

There was good news earlier this month when it was announced in a press release from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative that the 25 percent tariff would remain in place and not increase. Big sigh of relief. But that still leaves a sizable financial penalty on certain wines being imported from the EU.

To be clear, the tariff is only on wines below 14 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), but that includes a vast swath of the European wines we like to drink because many never attain the blockbuster alcohol levels that we see in New World wines.

How this impacts you is twofold. The price of some of your favorite wines is likely higher than it was a year ago, and that’s if you can find them at all. The reason you may not be seeing some of your favorite European wines is that small importers simply don’t have the cash flow, especially amid COVID-19 lockdowns, to bring in these wines at the higher cost.

Small businesses in the wine industry are endangered and rightly angry. The flip side, however, is that EU tariffs on U.S. wines going the other way penalize U.S. wine producers who would like to sell their wines in Europe. If you’ve ever seen a California cabernet sauvignon on a French wine list, you understand the problem.

The practical solution, it would seem, would be to remove tariffs on wine and spirits in both directions. But that would make too much sense, so it will probably never happen.

Tasting Notes

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer’s enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Dutton-Goldfield 2019 Pinot Blanc, Dutton Ranch-Shop Block Vineyards, Green Valley of the Russian River Valley ($30): Fresh and clean, with bright acidity and uncommon minerality, this is another stunning pinot blanc from winemaker Dan Goldfield, who seems to have a Midas touch with the pinot blanc grape variety. In 2019, the long, cool growing season resulted in perfect ripeness and exquisite balance. Aromas of peach, pear, and nectarine dominate this beautifully crafted vintage. Rating: 95.

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Dutton-Goldfield 2019 Pinot Blanc, Dutton Ranch-Shop Block Vineyards, Green Valley of the Russian River Valley. (Courtesy of Dutton-Goldfield)

Tongue Dancer 2018 Chardonnay, Pratt Vineyard-Irwin Lane, Russian River Valley ($42): Winemaker James MacPhail strikes again with a chardonnay that strikes the perfect balance between richness and minerality, a chardonnay that offers aromas of lemon creme, baked apple, and pear along with a thread of bright minerality, toasty oak, and a touch of wood spice. Rating: 95.

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Tongue Dancer 2018 Chardonnay, Pratt Vineyard-Irwin Lane, Russian River Valley. (Chris Blum)

Turnbull 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Oakville ($85): The Oakville district of the Napa Valley is undoubtedly one of the finest stretches of terroir in the world for cabernet sauvignon. The 2017 Turnbull Reserve is yet another example from this hallowed ground. This vintage is rich and powerful, and shows notes of ripe blackberry, boysenberry, and cassis with a touch of pencil lead and wood spice. Rating: 95.

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Turnbull 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Oakville. (Courtesy of Turnbull Wines)

Chappellet 2019 Chenin Blanc, Molly Chappellet Signature, Napa Valley ($38): This is the king of California chenin blanc, a grape variety popular in France’s Loire Valley but not widely planted in Napa. Chappellet’s location on the sunny eastern slopes of the Napa Valley is ideal for chenin, and the result is a dry chenin with exquisite balance and fresh, complex aromas of citrus, melon, and stone fruits. This vintage is nothing short of sensational. Rating: 94.

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Chappellet 2019 Chenin Blanc, Molly Chappellet Signature, Napa Valley. (Courtesy of Chappellet)

Pellegrini 2019 Rosé, Russian River Valley ($30): This limited production rosé from the Russian River Valley could easily pass for one of the dry rosé beauties from the south of France. Crisp and refreshing, with mouthwatering acidity and complex aromas of strawberry, pomegranate, and stone fruits, it’s sunshine in a glass and lip-smacking good. It’s a blend of 90 percent pinot noir and 10 percent carignan. Rating: 92.

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Pellegrini 2019 Rose, Russian River Valley. (Courtesy of Pellegrini Wine Company)

Flora Springs 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Family Estate ($30): This historic Napa Valley winery has a long and solid track record with sauvignon blanc. The 2018 vintage is another success story. This vintage is beautifully balanced, fresh, and lively. It has notes of citrus, peach, and lemongrass and a long, impressive finish. Rating: 91.

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Flora Springs 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Family Estate, Napa Valley. (Courtesy of Flora Springs)

Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Creators.com. Email Robert at whitleyonwine@yahoo.com. Copyright 2020 Creators.com