Inside Wine - February 17th, 2020

Inside Wine (Feb 17th, 2020)

100 percent wine tariffs averted / Hemp winery closes / Barossa Winemaker of the Year

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1. No new tariffs were placed on European wines last week, but the 25 percent tariffs on certain wines held. On Friday, after months of waiting and concern over a possible 100 percent tariff on all wines from the EU, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced the new tariff decisions, sending a collective but temporary sigh of relief throughout the wine industry. The USTR will review tariffs again in August, and changes to tariffs on wine and other goods could happen then. The current 25 percent tariff on some wines from France, Spain, Germany and the UK will most likely remain until then, and US consumers can expect to see the prices of many of those wines rise. Those tariffs were imposed last October after the World Trade Organization permitted the US to impose punitive tariffs on $7.5 billion of goods from Europe because the EU was found guilty of giving Airbus unfair subsidies. One Twitter user recently wrote that "Tariffs will only hurt EU exporters" as "Hospitality businesses can source North American wine." -- WINE SPECTATOR

How do you think the continued tariffs on European wines will affect the industry as a whole? Hit reply and let me know. - Robin

2. Because of a surplus of California grapes and fewer wine drinkers, Rob McMillan, founder of Silicon Valley Bank's Wine Division, predicts wine will decrease in price for the next three years. The author of the annual State of the Wine Industry report told CNN in an interview that "unless vineyard acres are removed, balance will be difficult to find." He says it will take the industry two to three years to stabilize grape prices. In his industry report, he wrote that "wine consumers will discover unprecedented retail value in 2020 and should buy up." -- CNN

It seems to me that what CNN and many other outlets writing about McMillan's predictions are not making clear is that any decreases in prices will be on California wines, and certainly not all California wines. Consumers may find themselves confused when heading to the wine shop to find that the prices of many wines have not plummeted (as CBS San Francsico said), particularly those from Europe with a 25 percent tariff placed on them.

3. House Method took the price of three well-regarded “supermarket wines” in every state - one red, one white and one rosé - and came up with the average price of wine in each state. The "more than drinkable" wines chosen were Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Louis M. Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon from California, and Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rosé from Provence. Their results found "considerable disparity" in the prices of each of the wines as in the overall average bottle price from state to state. The rosé had the biggest disparity, costing only $9.97 in Massachusetts and Connecticut and $17.73 in Mississippi. The reasons for prices being all over the place have to do with individual state laws including excise taxes as well as importer and distributor markups. The results for each state are revealed in this piece. -- 24/7 WALL ST

4. Drones can be used to discover thermal inconsistencies in older wine cellars so wineries can fix any problems. Researches in Madrid and Lugo, Spain, used a combined drone/ground survey. Using a semi-buried wine cellar in O Saviñao in Ribeira Sacra that was built in the 1920s, they created a heat-data map of the cellar. The data captured by the drone was more detailed than that from the ground survey. With the combined data, researchers were able to detect such things as air leakage by a door and above a window and thermal radiation reflected by ceramic tiles. Fixing these issues will allow a vintage to age consistently throughout the entire cellar and also save energy. -- DRONELIFE

5. At Wine Paris and VinExpo Paris last week, producers spoke of their challenges in working with the US. In an overview of the entire event, this piece of information sticks out: Because of tariffs (25 percent on still wines under 14 percent ABV placed on French wines) some winemakers are exploring other markets. Among the markets mentioned by individual producers were Europe, Africa, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Clement Berthier, of Clement & Florian Berthier in the upper Loire, said that if his winery takes its wines elsewhere, it will most likely be long-term. -- WINE SEARCHER

6. The first hemp winery in the US has closed because of federal regulations. Sovereign Vines in Johnson City near Binghamton was the only winery making hemp-infused wine, but it couldn't sell the wine out of state. Current stock of the wine will continue to be sold in New York State but no new wine will be produced. The wine is infused with terpene from the buds of the hemp plant, which is different from THC or CBD and is non-psychotropic. -- NEW YORK UPSTATE

7. The wine industry needs more transparency, according to Todd White, founder and CEO of Dry Farm Wines. In an interview with Food Tank's Dani Nierenberg, he said he wants content and nutrition labeling on wine bottles so consumers know what they're drinking. Among other things, the lack of transparency allows wine companies to hide additives that they put in wines. -- FOOD TANK

8. Napa Valley's Caymus Vineyards has purchased another vineyard in Rutherford. For $6 million, Caymus bought a 19-acre lot off Mee Lane that's planted with 15 acres of vines from Rutherford Vista Vineyards LLC. The vineyard doesn't seem to have been associated with a specific winery. Rutherford Vista focuses on grape growing, not winemaking. -- WINE BUSINESS

9. The 2020 Barossa Winemaker of the Year is Stuart Bourne from Soul Growers. The honor was bestowed upon Bourneat the annual Declaration of Vintage over the weekend. The award is presented by Barons of Barossa and recognizes “a winemaker who has made a significant contribution to the industry, producing wines that exhibit the regionality of Barossa grapes, and generously shares their knowledge with others." -- THE SHOUT

10. Madeline Pucket takes a look at why old vine wines are so special. Vines over 25 years old are considered "old vines" and these vines produce fruit that's more concentrated, have roots that run deep making them more drought tolerant, ripen grapes more consistently, and take care of themselves. They do usually have a smaller production than younger vines, but the wines that come from their grapes are "tasty." -- WINE FOLLY 

Robin Shreeves is a wine, beer, spirits and travel writer. She's the wine columnist and restaurant and beverage features writer for the Courier Post newspaper in New Jersey. She holds an Intermediate Sommelier certification from the Wine School of Philadelphia. Her food and drinks writing can be found at Wine Enthusiast, VinePair, Food Network, Spirited magazine, USA Today, Mother Nature Network, Drink Nation, Edible Philly and Edible Jersey. Visit her website wineandwonder.com and follow her on Instagram at @rshreeves.

Edited by Beth Duckett, staff writer at Inside.

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