Above: progressive, independent, and “niche” wine bars like Ordinaire, which specializes in natural wines in Oakland, California, would be forced to shutter if the Trump administration’s 100 percent tariffs on wine are put into effect.
“Consider liquidating and closing that chapter of your life,” writes Dallas Morning News wine columnist Alfonso Cevola on his blog this week.
That’s his advice to “small distributors” who specialize “in wines of France, or bio dynamic wines [sic] of Europe or any number of niches that will potentially be affected” by the Trump administration’s 100 percent tariffs on European Union wines if implemented.
“It isn’t dishonorable to fail,” he opines like a Mafia Don, “but it is disheartening.”
He should know: as a lifer sales rep for the “big wine” industry and a staunch advocate for America’s competition-stifling “three-tier system,” he spent the better part of his career trying to parry the expansion of small importers and distributors that took shape over the last two decades in the U.S. He’s well aware that big wine will be the only winner in the trade war because it alone has the capital needed to survive a 100 percent increase in product cost. The big distributors will simply shed off their sales reps to cut operating expenses as they wait out the crisis. The small distributors will be decimated.
Yesterday, I traded messages with one of the brave small distributors whose voice will be heard today in Washington, D.C.: he’s just one of wine trade “witnesses” who will be speaking at the U.S. Trade Representative’s Public Hearing on Proposed Action to France’s Digital Services Tax (the hearing will take place from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST and although it will not be broadcast live, a full transcript will be made available according to the USTR site).
As he and I chatted online, I remembered fondly how we started our businesses around the same time when we were both living in New York. It was back in 2007-2008 when the new wave of independent importers and distributors was rising and progressive attitudes about wine in the U.S. were beginning to take form.
“I’ll just move to [Europe] with my cats,” he wrote me, “and start over” if the tariffs take effect — 13 years down the drain, “liquidated.”
I’m in the same boat, I reminded him. And his congedo to me was positive in its outlook.
“We will win!” he wrote.
His sentiment echoed an op-ed published on Sunday in the New York Times by Jenny Lefcourt, a “small distributor” and importer based on the east coast.
“I have spent 20 years building a wine-import company,” she wrote in her piece (“The Insanity of Trump’s Wine Tariffs”). “On Jan. 14, the Trump administration could destroy it all by imposing a 100 percent tariff on European wine.”
She’s also one of the witnesses who will be speaking today in Washington.
If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to share your concerns about said tariffs with the USTR and your representatives in congress (links at the end of this post).
And I also encourage you to sign this Change.org petition launched by Italian winemakers who will also be decimated by the tariffs. Without their products, the entire system will be disrupted — from small distributor to retailer, restaurateur, and consumer.
We must make our voices heard. Otherwise, people like me — with a stay-at-home wife and two small children — would have to pack it up and throw in the towel.
Liquidation is not an option!
Write to your senators (via the National Association of Wine Retailers):
To your congressperson (via the National Association of Wine Retailers):
To the United States Trade Representative (USTR):
The deadline to register your concern with the USTR is Monday, January 13.