Trump's tariffs could ruin your holiday party

Sancerre lovers may have to trade down to Sauvignon Blanc, admonished one French wine salesman.
Whisky in city background
Jay's photo / Getty Images

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Alyssa Newcomb

Holiday boozing will likely cost a bit more this year for discerning drinkers, after President Donald Trump’s administration slapped a fresh round of tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of goods from the European Union, including French wine and Scotch whisky.

“It basically makes our jobs a little more difficult trying to find the wines that haven’t been affected by the tariffs,” said Steve Flynn, owner of Amsterdam Wine Co. in New York City.

Flynn said he expects prices will go up. Prices for a bottle of Sancerre, a popular French wine, are typically around $20 to $25, which he said is an attractive entry-level price point for most consumers.

“That might go $25 to $30 — and that might meet some resistance,” he said. “People may end up trading down slightly to Sauvignon Blanc.”

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

"Though some producers shipped inventory to the U.S. ahead of anticipated tariffs, unfortunately, leading into the busy holiday season, American consumers will very likely see the price of a few of their favorite European wines and spirits increase," said Brandy Rand, chief operating officer of the Americas at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. "We're already hearing reports of some companies that will soon be raising prices in certain categories.”

However, it might not be all bad news — for consumers.

"Most suppliers and brands are eating the costs for 2019 and for as long as they can,” said Tara Fougner, co-founder of Thirsty Media, an online publication covering the latest alcohol industry news.

Fougner said there’s an increase in demand in the United States for imported spirits, including the ones hit by the tariffs. While some bottles should still be affordably priced for people looking to pick up a tipple to bring to a holiday party, if the “sweet spot” price of $25 to $50 per bottle is exceeded, Fougner said she expects consumers to gravitate to domestic alternatives.

“If an imported bottle exceeds those price points because of tariffs, I think we will see purchases swing towards similar domestic products when possible, such as whiskey and brandy,” she said.

Rand also forecasts tequila and bourbon will be two of the stars of the holiday season, since “those products are always popular for gifting and celebrating.”

As for those tariffs, the glass will be still half full for people with a healthy holiday booze budget, according to Rand.

“Price increases in products above $100 likely won't impact purchase, as consumers are usually willing to pay extra on those 'status' spirits and wines,” she told NBC News.

In other words, if there isn’t French wine at the office holiday party, blame the tariffs — or the company budget.