Fine food buyers in stockpiling frenzy before Trump tariffs start

These are not your average hoarders.

Purveyors of fine culinary goods are racing to stockpile European imports in anticipation of Trump administration tariffs that threaten to more than double the price of everything from French wines to Italian cheeses.

“We need to make sure we can get through the summer,” explained Jeff Zacharia of the thousands of extra cases of imported wines he‘s purchasing for Zachys, a third-generation wine shop in Scarsdale, NY, since the tariffs were threatened last month.

Among the wines he’s stockpiling is a Whispering Angel rosé from France that now costs $22 a bottle, but which could cost as much as $55 a bottle under the new tariffs, Zachery said. “People’s favorite rosés, Chianti Classicos and Pinot Grigios could all go up 150 percent for the consumer,” he explained.

If the 100-percent tariff increase hits, the days of affordable soft and creamy cheeses like Camembert and Brie may also be over, sources said. Instead, cheese lovers will be munching on hard cheeses because they can be bought in advance of the tariffs and stored for months.

“We started working with our distributors to stock up on cheeses with long shelf lives, like Parmesan and Manchego,” said an executive of a well-known Manhattan cheese shop who did not want to be identified. “We are stockpiling cheeses to build up our inventory.”

Purveyors of fine wines and cheeses, many of which come from Europe, have already been grappling with a 25 percent tax increase on $7.5 billion worth of goods that hit in October as payback for EU subsidies for Airbus that hurt Boeing. But the industry was thrown into a full-on panic in December thanks to the Trump administration’s threat to ratchet the tax to 100 percent on $25 billion worth of EU goods, including wine, cheese, meat, pasta and olive oil.

The new tariffs won’t just cost more, they could also eliminate loopholes that the industry has been relying on since October, such as no tariffs on Swiss and French cheeses — or on sparkling Italian wines.

James Coogan, chief buyer for Eli Zabar’s restaurants, shops and markets, had already been buying more Swiss cheeses, like Gruyère, after the first round of tariffs hit. With the second round looming, he sees American cheeses as another potential escape hatch.

“I don’t see myself with a tiny French cheese selection. I’ll have to see what the market could bear. I have bought in where I could. There are also great American cheeses out there. We already have a strong selection of those, but expanding them is another alternative.”

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