Bracing for 100% Champagne tariffs

Late yesterday, the US Trade Representative unsheathed a champagne saber. But it wasn’t for sabering champagne in celebration; rather, it was for dealing it a blow by threatening tariffs of 100%. French sparkling wine (not still wine) as well as cheese, handbags, makeup and enamelware would be affected. (See the whole listhere.)

While that would be very bad news for consumers as well as producers, there is some cause for guarded optimism. This was, after all, saber rattling, not actually putting the tariffs into effect. Thecore issuehere is a “digital tax” that France has imposed on big tech companies, mostly American, doing business in France. France has threatened to retaliate if the tariffs announced yesterday (not the ones from October!–do try to keep up) are imposed so maybe it is all just a bargaining position? And there’s Trump’s relationship with LVMH founder Bernard Arnault,on display in Texas recently, which may have played a part in why champagne, handbags and cognac were not on the first round of tariffs.

But, of course, there’s also the case for pessimism: this is the self-proclaimed “tariff man” whose relationship with Macron has deteriorated. There’s a lot of uncertainty in trade these days. Importers may plan for the worst case and bring in boatloads (or planeloads) of bubbly as soon as they can to duck under the wire of a potential tariff. Sadly, if enacted, this will be fatal to the category of crémant wines, sparkling wines from France outside of Champagne. While many of them are very good wines, their main selling point is value, which the tariffs would obliterate.

Napoleon supposedly said about champagne that in victory you deserve it while in defeat you need it. An important corollary to that all-purpose reason for popping bubbly next year might be “providing you can afford it.”

A hearing is scheduled on the champagne tariffs for January 7 in Washington DC.

One Response to “Bracing for 100% Champagne tariffs”

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