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EU wine exports surge as Trump tariff fears grow

European wine exports outside the EU are booming, nearly doubling in a decade, driven by a growing taste for the drink in China. Although there are fears that US tariffs could signal an end to the good times.

As French Beaujolais producers, uncork their first bottles of the year, their fellow winemakers are enjoying another record year for overseas sales.

Eurostat released figures for 2018, showing France, consistently the world's top wine producer, accounts for 47 percent of the EU's wine exports outside the bloc – dwarfing second-placed Italy on 26 percent and Spain on 10 percent.

Outside the EU, the largest importer is the US – a market worth $4.2 billion. Although China's taste for wine has risen, with its import market growing almost seven-fold in a decade and now standing at more than $1.2 billion.

The relationship between EU winemakers and China hasn't always been rosy. In 2014, China dropped an investigation into whether European winemakers were illegally benefiting from EU government subsidies and dumping cheap wine on the Chinese market. The resolution marked the end of one of the bitterest trade disputes between the two powers.

Beyond the usual exporters, nations not necessarily known for their wine production are marking a splash in the market. The UK, as well as consuming its fair share of wine – being the largest importer of the EU nations – has grown its export market outside the EU from $168 million in 2008 to $437 million 10 years later.

The news comes on Beaujolais Day, celebrated on the third Thursday of November. Fireworks and torch-lit parades mark the day when the first wine of the season made from the first harvest of grapes, is uncorked and drunk.

The boom doesn't look set to last, amid fears that tariffs implemented by protectionist US president Donald Trump could damage the market. A punishing 25 percent tariff was put on many European wines by the US, in retaliation for EU subsidies to provided to airplane manufacturer Airbus.

Ahead of implementing the tariffs, Trump tweeted: "I've always said American wine is better than French wine!"


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