Fine wine news roundup: 20-24 January



US and France agree year-long tariff truce

After US threats of up to a 100% tariff on $2.4 billion worth of French goods – including wine –American president Donald Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron have settled on a year-long truce.

Disputes between the two countries have been ongoing for some months, with Trump announcing back in July 2019 “substantial reciprocal action” to Macron’s decision to impose a 3% levy on large American technology companies providing services to French consumers. In December 2019, Trump proposed tariffs of up to 100% on French goods.

However, in a tweet posted on 20th January, Macron wrote that he’d had a “great discussion” with the US president and that both had vowed to “work together on a good agreement to avoid tariff escalation”.

A French diplomatic source subsequently told various media outlets that Macron and Trump had decided to hold off on any further tariffs until the end of the year.


Smith Haut Lafitte owners purchase Napa Valley winery

The owners of Bordeaux’s Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte have bought an estate in Napa Valley with which they intend to start a new winemaking project from the 2020 harvest.

The 100-hectare property, which sits at the base of the Mayacamas mountains, was originally founded by the Scottish Rennie Brothers in 1885, and is said to boast ‘exceptional terroir’. It was previously part of the Flora Springs wine group.

Under the name ‘Cathiard Family Estate’, the property will begin making wine this year. Its vineyards are predominantly home to Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and some Malbec.

Speaking to Decanter, the Cathiards said: “This new adventure reminds us of our beginnings at Smith Haut Lafitte 30 years ago and we have exactly the same expectations.”


Champagne faces demand challenges in 2020

Champagne houses and producers are set to face a “difficult situation” this year, as high demand for expensive prestige cuvees and rising costs come up against reduced demand for Champagnes in more traditional markets.

According to Vincent Perrin, general director of the Comite Champagne trade body, total turnover from Champagne shipments in 2019 is expected to come in slightly above €5 billion, indicating a

year-on-year increase of 2%. However, total shipments dropped by around 2% in volume over the same period.

Perrin said that stronger demand for prestige cuvee Champagnes versus weaker sales of non-vintage wines explained the dichotomy in volume and value figures. He noted, however, that final figures would not be available until March. Related link: Decanter

More than AUD $500m raised for Australia’s bushfire-hit wineries

Over AUD $500 million has been raised across the globe for wineries in Australia hit by the recent devastating bushfires.

Speaking at this week’s Australia Trade Tasting in London, Wine Australia’s general manager, Stuart Barclay, said: “The outpour and generosity from people in Australia and across the globe has been outstanding and we really want to thank everyone, especially the UK, for their generosity.”

Barclay reinforced the message that “Australia is very much open for business”, and reiterated that while the “toll on individuals cannot be underestimated and should not be downplayed”, so far a maximum of around 1,500ha of vineyards fall within the regions affected by the current bushfires to date.

He added that 2020 may be a smaller vintage for some producers, but that it was “really early days” in establishing the overall impact of the fires.

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