New Airport Terminal In Florence Will Have A Vineyard On Its Roof, Aiding New Sustainability Efforts

New York-based firm Rafael Viñoly Architects announced back in January that it will be adding a new international terminal at the Aeroporto Amerigo Vespucci in Florence that will have a functioning vineyard on its roof as a “new landmark for the city’s sustainable future.”

US & France Wine Tax

Import Tax Likened to “Prohibition” in Latest Trade War

The recent decision by President Donald Trump to increase tax on all European wine imports to 100% has sparked outrage across the industry, with many comparing it to Prohibition during the 1920s and 30s.

The new tariffs are a direct response to the European subsidies for Airbus and American importers are asking Washington to cancel the proposal after it was revealed it would impact around $2.4 billion worth of French products that also include cosmetics and cheese as well as wine.

Washington has challenged the French government’s new digital services tax claiming it is specifically aimed at American technology giants and the retaliating import tax increase is seen by many to potentially be the start of further international trade wars. Although the current trade war with China has seen a preliminary trade deal appearing to be finalized.

While America and France have confirmed a two week period to discuss a deal that would suit both nations — with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreeing to further talks at the World Economic Forum towards the end of January — the European Union has vowed to back France.

A third of America’s wine industry is from imported wines and warnings have already been issued that the tariffs could devastate the $70 billion wine industry that in turn could affect businesses across the country including restaurants, bars, warehouses and even our own wineries, effectively placing thousands of American jobs at risk.

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The recent US Trade Representative (USTR) hearing in Washington saw industry insiders calling for certain products to be excluded from the tariffs, especially considering many businesses are already suffering difficulties thanks to the 25 percent tariffs that were imposed at the end of 2019 on specific German, French and Spanish wines. These tariffs were imposed as part of a different trade dispute regarding European subsidies to many large aircraft makers. The new tariffs proposed by Trump’s administration will cover more products such as sparkling wines.

And with small profit margins on the majority of wines being sold it is virtually impossible for restaurant owners and wine importers to absorb the tariffs meaning prices will have to be increased, hitting the American consumer’s pocket. The National Association of Wine Retailers has already announced they believe that the cost of some bottles of wine could double while others will disappear from our shelves completely as they will become too expensive to continue importing.

Vintage 59 is a small wine import business and partner Michael Daniels commented:

“Any increased tariff burden levied on wines or spirits from the EU… will force our customers to choose different products. Any significant sales losses, even during a short period, will require layoffs. Any extended period of losses could lead to our full-scale collapse.”

There are also major concerns that the tariffs could result in many European wine exporters opting to stay away from America on a more permanent basis which could have dire consequences in the long term as well as the short term.

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Passed in July 2019, the French digital tax saw a 3 percent tax imposed on all revenue generated from digital services and has affected corporations that have global revenues of over $1.1 billion and French revenues of nearly $28 million.

An investigation by the USTR claimed that American companies were discriminated against by the tax resulting in Washington threatening retaliatory tariffs on French imports. France disputed this and explained they were struggling to deal with the way in which they should tax technology corporations that conduct business in their country. Other European countries are now considering similar taxes, which could see further disputes with America.

Senior fellow and trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics Gary Hufbauer has stated that the “thresholds and definitions of ‘taxable services’ ensure that US firms are the primary target.” This follows the Computer and Communications Industry Association imploring the US to react to the tax.
Benjamin Aneff is managing partner of Tribeca Wine Merchants and has likened the tariff to Prohibition commenting, “it is without hyperbole that I tell you that the proposed tariffs would be the greatest threat to the wine and spirits industry since Prohibition, in 1919.”

Trump has said that he believes the two countries will “work it out” however he has also disregarded concerns of wine drinkers saying we should replace French wines with products from wineries across America.

Yet even with the potential for higher sales for American wines Californian wineries have also criticized the tariffs, stating that if people cannot buy their favored wine they may choose to buy anything other than American products, in an act of protest to the government. And with many great wines from countries across the world, including South Africa, New Zealand or Chile, there is still a great range to choose from.

Making Wine

Climate Change Hurting France’s Winemaking Industry

Climate change has become a major epidemic in our world. The Amazon Forest is on fire along with California, it’s been snowing in the Midwest since September, our oceans are filled with plastic, and the North Pole is beginning to look like a beach resort. Environmental impact aside, the world’s economies that rely on our planet’s many ecosystems are also in a rapid decline. France is the most recent area of the planet that’s having an economic crisis as a result of climate change, and its happening to one of their most lucrative industries – wine-making. 

The wine industry is built around vineyards and growing nice, healthy grapes that will later be turned into eclectic wines. Now, according to the National Public Radio, French vineyards are being negatively impacted by erratic weather patterns and long periods of heat which lead to drought. It’s not as though vintners aren’t used to seasonal changes and drastic shifts in temperature, however, they’ve never experienced it at the level that’s occurring now. 

“Because of the grapes. They show us the change. Especially in alcohol. The alcohol level has been getting higher in the last five years. These days, the alcohol content by volume can reach 15%, when [I] was a boy, it was maximum 12 [% ABV]. It’s causing me some problems when I start the vinification process, because I have to use new yeast to avoid too much alcohol. It’s really new for me,” said Remi Couppé, to NPR, a fourth-generation winemaker who crafts wine at, grand cru St. Emilion with his brother. 

Higher alcohol content is due to an increase in seasonal temperatures. The escalation causes the grapes to have a larger amount of sugar in them, and therefore a higher alcohol percentage is produced during the fermentation process. During fermentation, yeasts convert the sugar from the grapes into ethanol, the alcohol in wine, so the more sugar, the more ethanol is produced. 

Additionally, Couppé discussed how changes in soil along with the temperatures, have caused new small flowers to begin to grow on the grape vines. This can become a problem because if those flowers are mixed in with the grapes when they’re being broken down and fermented, they can add different flavors to the wine than intended. Also, a big part of the harvesting process is known as “stripping,” (NPR), in which workers strip the leaves off of the vines as a means of getting more sun exposure to the grapes, and it also makes harvesting and separating the grapes from the vine easier. However, with an increase in temperature and UV exposure, the leaves need to stay on to protect the grapes, thus making the harvesting process even more tedious. 

Vineyard workers have to also consider other extreme conditions that occur besides the heat. Rainstorms are becoming heavier and longer, along with spells of cold weather and drastic temperature drops, which are causing the unexpected worry of hailstorms.

“In the past couple of years, some chateaux have been banding together to fight the increasing frequency of hailstones. We’re now hooked up to radar systems that let us know when a hailstone-charged cloud is approaching. So we launch some helium balloons together, and on those balloons we attach hygroscopic salt. The balloon is sucked into the storm cloud and the hygroscopic salt burns, transforming the hail into rain,” says Vine-master Nicolas Poumeyrau to NPR.

Vine-masters all around France are also pulling their focus more on the grapes that can withstand more extreme temperatures and changing their watering patterns to favor the vines that are stronger. They’re also attempting to infuse more irrigation systems among the vineyards to ensure all plants are hydrated consistently. Additionally, this past July the French wine governing body, the INAO (Institute National de l’Origine et de la Qualité), approved the use of seven new grapes for certain categories of Bordeaux wines specifically, one of the most lucrative wines that is exported from France, (NPR).