Trick or treat: Wine tariffs land today

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, I don’t think you’re going to be overjoyed about the Trump Administration’s tariffs that go into force today.

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The tariffs will add an immediate 25 percent tax on French, German and Spanish wines, as well as Parmesan cheese, mussels, coffee, single-malt whiskeys and other agricultural goods from Europe. The list of taxed products, The New York Times wrote earlier this month, “reads like a gourmet shopping list.”

In a grown-up version of the game “he said, she said,” the tariffs emerge from a long-running U.S. complaint over subsidies given to the European plane maker Airbus, which hit the American plane maker Boeing hard. In a Wednesday ruling, the World Trade Organization declared the subsidies illegal and approved the U.S. plan to recoup the loss by imposing tariffs sufficient to block $7.5 billion in trade from Europe.

Yeah, sure, okay, fine, but for lovers of wines from France, Germany, and Spain, not to mention other good things like European cheese and olives, a tax that high represents a punch in the pocketbook.

The tariff will add $100 to the $398 price for a bottle of Chateau Cos d'Estournel.

The tariff will add $100 to the $398 price for a bottle of Chateau Cos d’Estournel.

“Wineries and importers are baffled and furious,” wrote Wine Spectator, in an article published today by writer Mitch Frank headlined “Your Favorite Old World Wine Is About to Get Much More Expensive. “They say the tariffs are so large that they will have no choice but to pass along at least some of the cost to American consumers, though they may cut profit margins to try to minimize the price increases. They expect to lose sales and suffer financially until the trade dispute is settled and they fear that they may lose customers for years to come.”

“It’s a nightmare,” Aurélie Bertin of Chateau Sainte-Roseline in southern France told USA Today. “We don’t know what will be the result.” Her rosé wine business has boomed in recent years thanks to American demand for the beverage, USA Today reported. “She fears her U.S. sales could drop by a third under the new tariffs.”

“The costs will be borne at all levels of the trade—producer, importer, distributor, retailer, restaurateur and by consumers too,” Martin Sinkoff, former vice president at importer Frederick Wildman & Sons, who now works as a consultant, told Wine Spectator. “Consumers can expect to pay 20% to 30% more for the same wines they buy now.”

“Multiple wineries and importers say that they will try to swallow at least some of the cost, but they cannot swallow it all,” Wine Spectator said.

But wait! It gets worse! As W. Blake Gray at reported Tuesday, the tariff is imposed on the wines as they enter the U.S. State and local taxes are then added, based on the import price, which means that the actual price increase could be closer to 30 percent. A wine that is now $20 could become $26, which is a big psychological leap.

But there’s an asterisk for canny wine buyers who are willing to look for alternatives to the tariffed wines. ” The tax is aimed squarely at table wines below 14 percent alcohol, which includes most Bordeaux, Burgundy, and German Rieslings, among other popular imports. But stronger wines, which are increasingly available in this warming age, won’t be taxed. Neither will wines from Italy or Portugal, Eastern Europe, and the rest of the world.

While we wait out the tariffs, that’s our choice, then. Dig down deeper for the light, elegant European wines that we love. Or rewrite our shopping list. What’s your pleasure? Join the conversation on the WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG) or our WineLovers Facebook Page.


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Today’s Tasting Reports

Today I report on a pair of wines from Tuscany, one of my favorite red-wine regions: A Chianti Classico from Ruffino, and a Toscana Rosso from Marchesi Antinori’s Santa Cristina, the similar designation that allows more experimental varietal blends – in this case a dollop of Merlot in an otherwise straight Sangiovese. Join us for conversation about Tuscan wines of all varieties in this month’s Wine Focus in our WineLovers Discusstion Group, Back to Basics with Tuscany.


Ruffino 2016 “Aziano” Chianti Classico ($17.99)

Ruffino Aziano

This is a dark reddish-purple wine shading to a light violet edge. A distinct high-toned edge of volatile acidity, all too typical of modest Chianti, plays around the edges of characteristic Chianti black cherries, plums, and dried cherries. On the palate it’s mouth-filling with juicy black fruit firmly contained by food-friendly acidity and considerable tannic astringency. This is a real food wine in the sense that it shows best with appropriate food on the table but might be less enjoyable for sipping as an aperitif. The label claims 13.5% alcohol. U.S. importer: Ruffino Import Company, Rutherford, Calif. (Oct. 17, 2019)

FOOD MATCH: Chianti is the stereotypical companion with tomato-sauced pasta dishes and pizzas; it’s also fine with burgers or steaks. An artisanal, coal-fired Margherita pizza from a local shop worked just fine.

WHEN TO DRINK: I don’t think that volatile acidity is going to improve with age, so I’d drink up fairly soon.

I paid $18 locally, a good jump above’s $14 average retail, and to be honest, for a somewhat flawed albeit drinkable food-friendly Chianti I’d have preferred to pay a few dollars less.

Here’s the winery’s English-language fact sheet on Ruffino Aziano Chianti Classico.

Find vendors and compare prices for Ruffino “Aziano” Chianti Classico on


Marchesi Antinori 2016 “Santa Cristina” Toscana ($12.99)

Santa Cristina

A pretty, clear garnet color in the glass, this blend of 90 percent Sangiovese with a splash of Merlot offers clean and fresh aromas of black cherries and a hint of raspberries. Juicy black fruit surrounded by clean, food-friendly acidity makes for a nicely balanced wine that serves well at the dinner table. Modest 13% alcohol. U.S. importer: Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Ltd., Woodinville, Wash. (Oct. 17, 2019)

FOOD MATCH: As with its cousin Chianti, it’s broadly versatile with a range of pasta, pizza, and red meat. A traditional wood-fired pizza Margherita with a wood-oven charred breadlike crust and discreet toppings of tomato sauce, fior de latte, and snipped fresh basil leaves served it well.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s not a long-term ager, but its good fruit and acid balance should help it keep in a cool place for three or four years.

VALUE:’s $13 average retail matches my local price, but it’s widely available for $10 or less, so shop around.

Santa Cristina’s online info page is brief, but it links to a more detailed downloadable PDF tech sheet.

Check prices and locate vendors for Santa Cristina Toscana on


More affordable wines

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past year or two. Please tell us about your favorites!

  • Laroque 2016 Cité de Carcassonne Cabernet Franc ($9.99)
  • Domaine de Pouy 2016 Côtes de Gascogne ($7.99)
  • Alamos 2015 Salta Torrontés ($9.99)
  • Alamos 2015 Mendoza Malbec ($9.99)
  • Caposaldo 2014 Chianti ($8.99)
  • d’Arenberg 2012 McLaren Vale “The Stump Jump” ($9.99)
  • Oveja Negra 2014 Maule Valley Cabernet Franc – Carmenere Reserva ($9.99)
  • Côté Mas 2016 “Rouge Intense” Sud de France Pays d’Oc ($12.99/1 liter)

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