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Montana wine shop owner reacts to potential tariffs

Posted at 9:57 PM, Jan 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-20 12:35:52-05

HELENA — Proposed tariffs of up to 100% on almost all European wine mean you might soon pay double for a bottle of Burgundy or Champagne.

When it comes to the impact on his customers, the glass could be half empty for one Helena wine shop owner. “I put my first wine list together in 1970,” said Martin Richard, the owner of Martin’s Wines.

He’s passionate about helping customers find unique wines, often types from overseas, "I used to have a business card that said ‘wine freak in residence."

But he worries a proposed tariff will prevent others from finding the same joy in a glass of Bordeaux, "a lot of these wonderful wines that my customers like, will suddenly be out of reach.

The Trump administration wants to put pressure on European countries, partly in response to a French tax on American tech companies. If the tariffs go into effect, the price of a bottle effectively doubles.

“And that’s a shame, because Americans are finally realizing there's life beyond Chardonnay,” said Richard.

“In Montana, I don’t think we’re going to see devastating effects overall,” said Mike Markovich with Summit Beverage. He’s also the president of the Montana Beer and Wine Distributors Association. “But there are going to be pockets of folks that feel affected by this.”

He said more expensive brands could see a price hike at wine shops.

“Folks that sell more of that product, they’re going to be forced to get their price up,” he said. “Without having a crystal ball, long term I think you’re going to see a change in consumer habits. Essentially it becomes a very expensive luxury item.”

Richard is also worried about the impact on the appreciation of wine, "it’s not only going to cut economically into it, it will cut the experience of taste and textures that are currently available."