Viral update | U.S. wine in China

The United States is adding border restrictions for anyone who visited China during the past 14 days, a response to the coronavirus situation. Alex Azur, secretary of Health and Human Services and chair of the presidential novel coronavirus task force, declared the virus “a Public Health Emergency in the United States.”

Azar said returning U.S. citizens who had been in Hubei province during the past 14 days would face up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine while those who had been elsewhere in mainland China would “undergo proactive entry health screening at a select number of ports of entry” and be required to do “up to 14 days of monitored self-quarantine.”

The situation for foreigners is much stricter. Outside of immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, those “who have traveled to China within the last 14 days will be denied entry into the U.S. for this time.” All of measures are slated to start at 5 PM EST on February 2.

These measures make it more difficult for wine tourists, students and trade members traveling to the U.S.–I know one person who had to cancel her visit already–as well as for people heading the opposite way. Anyone planning to attend Chengdu’s China Food & Drinks Fair / Tang Jiu Hui next month or to lead winemaker tours, attend other exhibitions or consult at China’s wineries in the near term will be affected. Three major U.S. airlines are also canceling flights to mainland China: American (until March 27), United (February 6 to March 28) and Delta (February 6 to April 30).

I contacted Chris Beros, Asia director for the California Wine Institute, the leading wine promotion group in the U.S., and he said it was in a “monitoring mode” and “keeping our eye on this and trying to get as much information as possible.”

Compared to Australia, which has taken over top spot in continental China for bottled imported wine, the U.S. has a relatively modest presence here, with less than 2% of share. (I posted earlier about how the coronavirus situation is impacting the Australian trade.)

While some attribute U.S. wine struggles to high Chinese tariffs–and there is no doubt those have had an impact–as noted here, falling U.S. share here is a chronic problem. And the coronavirus situation isn’t making it any better.

Here in central Beijing, you just don’t see much U.S. wine on stores shelves or restaurant lists. The California Wine Institute also seems to be putting more focus on Hong Kong as compared to the days of its China roadshows.

But Chinese citizens in the U.S. have held increasing promise for the country’s wine trade. In 2018, just over 124,000 Chinese visited Napa Valley, with only Canadians ranking higher.

Okay, I’ll stop here before this turns into a 3,000-word piece on U.S. wine and Chinese consumers. For now, the connection between the two is a bit tougher as borders start to close and flights dwindle.

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