August 6, 2020

For American Wine Producers, Fear, Uncertainty and Hope

Importers are already dealing with the fallout of tariffs, not only those President Trump imposed on wines from France, Spain and Germany in a trade dispute with the European Union, but also tariffs that he imposed on goods from China.

As a result of the Chinese tariffs, along with the Covid-19 crisis there, refrigerated shipping containers, or reefers, have been stuck in China, without the trade business that would keep them circulating throughout the world.

This has caused a severe shortage of reefers available for shipping European wines to the United States, a trade already diminished by work stoppages mandated in Europe because of the pandemic, said Catherine Miles, a vice president of The Sorting Table, an importer in Napa, Calif.

While producers, distributors, restaurants and retailers are the most obvious members of the wine trade, other people like publicists and marketers are the lubricants that often keep the machinery operating smoothly. They, too, are facing possible disasters.

Alan Goldfarb in Mill Valley, Calif., who does public relations for small family wineries in California, works on his own, and says his three clients provide plenty of work for him. Since the pandemic hit, he says he has cut his fees, but doesn’t know how much longer he’ll have work.

“I am terrified of losing these clients, who may soon realize I’m not an essential part of their business,” he said.

In the Finger Lakes region of New York, Michael Schnelle and Nancy Irelan, husband and wife, operate Red Tail Ridge Winery in Penn Yan. They depend on restaurants and their own tasting room for income, which has largely dried up. They are now selling wine only online or for pickup at the winery.

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