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Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé – along with Trump's tariffs

A glass of wine against a backdrop advertising Beaujolais Nouveau in a bistrot in Paris on November 21, 2019.
A glass of wine against a backdrop advertising Beaujolais Nouveau in a bistrot in Paris on November 21, 2019. Benoit Tessier, Reuters

Beaujolais Nouveau lovers uncorked this year’s first bottles on Thursday, but producers face the sobering truth of a dip in margins due to the new tariffs on EU products imposed by the United States, their second-biggest export market.

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Barrels of this season’s vintage, a red wine made from Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais region, were rolled through the streets of Lyon in a traditional torchlit procession.

As the clock struck midnight on the third Thursday of November, bottles were popped open for late-night drinkers, some wearing “I Heart Beaujolais” T-shirts.

This year’s Beaujolais Nouveau Day celebrations come just a month after the US imposed a 25 percent tax on French wine and other EU goods in response to illegal EU aircraft subsidies.

“This is going to be a hard blow, we will need to work hard to bounce back,” said Jean-Baptiste Duperray, a producer of the popular young wine, which is fermented for just a few weeks before being exported to shelves around the world.

Americas Beaujolais lovers will see little impact on their wallets, with prices remaining between $10 to $15 per bottle as dealers dug into their own pockets to hold prices steady, according to David Ratignier, vice-president of the Inter Beaujolais Association.

“This is what has enabled us to maintain our volumes, to maintain the Beaujolais Nouveau’s release in the United States. So we can say it’s gone pretty well after all,” he said.

Huge in Japan, US

The US is the second-largest export market for the light-coloured red, with 13,337 hectolitres shipped in 2018, accounting for more than 15 percent of total exports and almost 8 percent of production.

In Japan, the top importer of Beaujolais Nouveau, men and women in straw hats, swimming shorts and bikini tops, and their children in floaters, soaked themselves in a “wine bath” to mark its 2019 launch.

Beaujolais Nouveau winemakers said they had little choice but to absorb US President Donald Trump’s additional tariff, monitor sales and hope it was short-lived.

“We realised [US policy] can change in a morning with a simple tweet from Mr Trump. If Trump changes his mind overnight, everything will be OK,” Ratignier said.

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