Euro wine companies fear consequences of wine tariffs

25% duty goes into effect next week, but only for wines with under 14% alcohol

11 October 2019

From various news sources

I have obtained press releases from various wine companies in recent days to react to President Donald Trump’s recent tariff on European wines that will take effect one week from today, 18 October.

As Eric Asimov of the New York Times recently reported, the duties will not affect sparkling wines. And they will only apply to wines with alcohol levels below 14%, which will hit producers from regions like Sancerre and Chablis hardest.

As alcohol levels for wines have been going up, generally speaking, many Bordeaux producers (but hardly all) – can breath a sigh of relief. As can producers in Châteauneuf du Pape, I suppose.

For lovers of lower alcohol wines, made in Europe? Well, this sucks.

Indeed, many companies, too, are worried. Because the US represents a significant market for them, and because of its good economy, it has become a main focus for international development.

Take for example French online wine auctioneer iDealwine, which is  “very concerned” over the 25% ad valorem import duty, the result of a long-running dispute with the EU over airplane subsidies.

As some have already noted, wines with already rather lofty price tags likely will still sell, as affluent buyers can take the hit. Although, even for this category, an increase in price will slow down purchasing. Wine that will have the hardest time it seems would be the category of under $15 retail bottles that face fierce international competition. Competition that does not have to deal with this tariff.

In any case, if nothing is done to prevent the United States imposing tariffs of 25% to French, Spanish and German wines, the consequences could be severe for wine industry professionals such as iDealwine.

“In Europe, France is second only to Italy in terms of quantity of wine (in containers of less than 2 litres) exported to the US”, the FEVS (Federation of Exporters of Wines and Spirits) stated in a press release. What’s more, while the aeronautic industry represents France’s first trade surplus, wines and spirits are in second position. The decision is very significant for foreign trade.

While for now the USA represents only a small portion of iDealwine’s annual turnover (<5% in 2018), it is one of their most dynamic markets and main area of focus for international development in the years to come, according to a press release from the company.

“The market is mature and highly knowledgeable. Americans were among our first non-French customers to buy wines such as Clos Rougeard, naturalwines, wines from the Jura… Given the constraints that already exist when it comes to importing, our progress on this market has been slow but sure; it has shown itself to be very reactive and dynamic. Our turnover increased by 62% between 2018 and 2019 (January-September). This success has led us to dedicate a development project focusing on the region. For example, we will be participating in the New York wine show Matter of Taste organized by The Wine Advocate (formerly Robert Parker). The next step would be to open an office in New York, just like we did in Hong Kong in 2013 – which then went on to become our top buying country after France. We had planned to make various investments and recruitments to develop growth. This supplementary tax of 25% for wines headed to the US forces us to seriously question these projects. For now, we are waiting to hear the reactions of our American customers. We sincerely hope that the French government will support us by continuing negotiations with the United States, so as to reestablish normal trading conditions”, Cyrille Jomand, CEO of iDealwine, explained.



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Cyclades Log: T-OINOS

By Panos Kakaviatos for

23 September 2019

French-Greek cooperation had been part of T-OINOS Winery since initial vine plantings in 2002 made T-OINOS a pioneer for Assyrtiko production outside of Santorini in Greece’s Cycladic Islands. Located  some 460 meters above sea level on the windy island of Tinos, the winery thrust Tinos into the modern wine-producing era, even if people have made wine there since ancient times.

Extending nearly 200 square kilometers, this northern Cyclades island, with over 50 villages, is far more relaxed and discrete when compared to the chic and expensive Mykonos Island nearby. Its intense northern winds, dubbed “Meltemi”,  explain why Tinos is home to the god Aeolus, as I outlined in my more general post about the island earlier this month. As you will discover in this text, the wind matters also for viticulture.

The Stegasta name 

The island’s dramatically terraced landscape illustrates historical agricultural activity, with wine production dating back to Prehistory through to the Middle Ages and today.

Brought back to life in a different way: Stegasta (photo courtesy of T-OINOS Winery)

By the 18th century, Venetian inhabitants were making 20 different wines on the island, as evidenced by remnants of stone huts, where workers had pressed grapes and fermented wine on the spot, to protect themselves from the strong winds and because it was impractical to haul grapes down the island’s villages. These stony habitats are called “Stegasta”, which means “covered” in Greek, and they explain the name of T-OINOS Winery’s top terroir: “Clos Stegasta”.  Read More

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Cyclades log: Tinos

Windswept island, great food, superb winery

By Panos Kakaviatos for

11 September 2019

After several hours cruising from the port of Piraeus near Athens, I arrived to the gusty environment on Tinos Island, whose barren and hilly landscape seems perfect for dystopian cinema. Its beauty is evident from the many windmills and over 50 villages, some among the most charming in Greece, like Pyrgos, dotting the landscape.

With a land area of 194,464 square kilometers (over 75,050 square miles) and about 9,000 year-round inhabitants, this Cycladic island is rather large, but more discrete than the jazzy, jet set Mykonos, just a 20 minute boat ride away, which is lit up like Taj Mahal by night.

The strong winds – gusts of 40 kilometers an hour are normal – explain why Tinos is known as the island home of Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds.

In more recent times the island is special for the Virgin Mary, as Our Lady of Tinos church houses a miraculous icon which, according to tradition, was found after the famous Virgin once appeared to a nun Pelagia and revealed to her the place where the icon was buried. A rug wide enough for pedestrians is parallel to the road from the port leading to the church, and some pilgrims still insist on getting to the church to see the icon on their knees, although most use their feet to light a candle and kiss the icon.

A veritable grand cru in Tinos

Starting at about 400 meters above sea level and up to 460, the island boasts a unique winery on an almost lunar landscape of enormous granite boulders. Many Assyrtiko vines of the T-OINOS winery are planted on thick sands over this rock and the estate, in operation since 2002, is justifiably highly prized for its high altitude, cool terroir.

Its wines wet stone like flavors emanating from these soils are so impressive that famous Bordeaux wine consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt has been the consultant winemaker here since about five years, and he travels to Tinos almost once a month to focus on new plantings. A new winery will be built by 2021.

I caught up Bordeaux-based assistant to Derenoncourt Julien Lavenu over dinner, and we spoke at length of the qualities of this wine, which will be the subject of my next blog entry.

Suffice to say that T-OINOS has been getting loads of positive press from critics and writers around the world, from FAZ in Germany to Julia Harding and Jancis Robinson. As I was leaving, PR manager Eleni Blouchou told me that a Financial Times correspondent was coming to visit next week.

Stay tuned for more details in the next Cyclades tour blog entry…

A gorgeous setting: Aeolis Tinos Suites 

While I paid my own way to get to Athens, it is important to point out that the visits to Tinos were part of a media tour, and the T-OINOS team covered my travel expense from Athens to the island and two nights stay at a most gorgeous luxury hotel, aptly named the Aeolis Tinos Suites. Read More

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Krug on Air France

But SAS remains my overall favorite Euro business experience

5 August 2019

By Panos Kakaviatos for

Tis the summer holiday season, and in a recent trip I flew with Air France Business Class to and back from the United States. It was interesting to compare the airplanes: on my way over, it was in a Boeing 777, which had an appealing 1-3-1 row seat configuration, so when traveling solo, you can get both an aisle and window seat at once, which is what I chose. The plane is comfortable although the table area was to my right, so seeing out the window was more of a stretch.

The service was very good, and I enjoyed the wines, which included a Louis Jadot Santenay 2017 red that was tasty enough. The Deutz NV bubbly was fun to drink, as well, and it went well with both the nuts (served cold), the beet mousse and a cheese crumble (tasty) and the excellent ending with cheeses. The main course – “pan fried shrimp with a butternut squash puree” – was kind of average. Read More

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Heady wines, heady times

Climate change and the enduring appeal of Châteauneuf du Pape

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

26 June 2019

A joyful ceremony earlier this month to induct 15 new ambassadors to the official fraternity of Châteauneuf-du-Pape – the Eschansonnerie des Papes – ended with soulful singing in the local Occitan dialect.

But not before participants gathered in the restored cellar section of the ancient Châteauneuf du Pape castle to enjoy a delicious dinner with opulent reds from the famous southern Rhône wine region, served Middle Age style from amphorae (see video).

Established in 1968, the Eschansonnerie des Papes now counts some 3,500 Eschansons, or ambassadors, who are not only wine industry representatives and restaurateurs, but also individuals from all walks of life.

They are chosen for induction into the club, after proving their passion for Châteauneuf du Pape, which is known partly for permitting a blend of 13+ different grapes (see section below on authorized grapes) that have been authorized for the appellation since the 1930s. The ambassadors include artists and athletes, musicians and entrepreneurs. Last year for example, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang was inducted. For the 15 June ceremony this year, Wine Advocate critic Joe Czerwinski and Costco wine buying director Annette Alvarez-Peters (both pictured below) counted among the new Eschansons. Read More

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