Steep Tariffs On European Wine Will Hurt Domestic Industry, Expert Predicts

Wine for two in a summer garden in Tuscany
Photo credit Ablokhin - Getty Images

(KCBS Radio) — You might think a 100% tariff on European wine, scheduled to take effect next week, would be a good thing for California producers. 

After all, wine is a key California product, and the less competition, the better, right?

"That's always the idea with a trade war," said Chris Null, founder and editor and chief of Drinkhacker

"You think you're going to support American businesses by keeping the foreigners out, and for some California wine makers, that's probably true," he said. "They will probably see an uptick in sales."

But the situation is complex. This trade war stems from President Trump's displeasure with European subsidies for the plane manufacturer Airbus. There's a lot more at stake here than it appears, Null said. 

"You have to realize a lot of business in California is no longer just making California wine," Null explained. "They import wine, they export wine, they have a lot of relationships throughout the world. So even if one area benefits California, the import businesses will suffer greatly. That would mean layoffs, or reshuffling things around, trying to figure out what's going on until this thing gets resolved."

Fans of European wines, and the businesses that bring them to us, will suffer.

"If you like to drink European wine, it will have a pretty devastating effect on your pocketbook," Null said. "The tariffs will double the price of wine, and that will have a huge ripple effect to importers, merchants, restaurants.  There are some businesses that will just have to close completely, because no one's going to pay that kind of money for wine."

Null told KCBS Radio the whole thing is a bad idea. 

"You're hurting everybody, that's not just big businesses, but small ones too. The small Italian wine shop that focuses on the wines of Italy isn't going to be able to survive this kind of thing," he said. "The French bistro where you go in expecting a Beaujolais is not going to be able to replace that with a bottle of California Cabernet."

Null warned that the tariff would have a major ripple effect. 

"There still hope that it will be averted," he said.