Many of our visitors from wine producing countries such as France, Italy, United States, Chile and Argentina are shocked by the cost of a bottle of wine in Costa Rica when they compare it to their home country. Why the big difference?
Costa Rica relys on import taxes as its main source of revenue. As such the country applies a convuluded formula that applies to any product imported into Costa Rica. This is the case with wine which in addition to import duties pays additional liquor taxes. Some countries that have signed a Free Trade Agreement with Costa Rica have the advantage of reduced import duties. This would be the case with Chile and the United States.
A report done by the Spanish government back in 2004 on the Wine Industry in Costa Rica indicates that Spanish wines were subject to 67.96% taxes. The breakdown of the taxes are as follow
Value Added Tax 14% (Arancel ad Valorem (DAI) )
Selective Consumption Tax 11.4% ( Impuesto Selectivo al Consumo (SC))
Tax for Law 6946 1% (Impuesto Ley 6946 )
Municipal Institute Tax 12.65% (Impuesto IFAM)
Sales Tax 28.92% (mpuesto sobre ventas)
Source: The Wine Industry in Costa Rica by the Commercial Section of the Spanish Embassy in Panama (2004)
Since then Costa Rica has signed Free Trade Agreements with several countries which eliminates some of the import duties but not the ancillary taxes. Costa Rica currently has free trade agreements with Central America, Canada, Caribbean, Chile, China, United States, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and the European Union.
A report done by the Chilean Commercial Promotion office (ProChile) in 2011 about the wine industry in Costa Rica indicated that Chile was the largest exporter of wine to Costa Rica taking advantage that it was one of the first countries to enter into a Free Trade Agreement with Costa Rica thus eliminating some of the import duties to Chilean wines.
Wine import statistics for Costa Rica showed that Chilean wines dominated the Costa Rican market with wines from Argentina coming in second place and Spain in third. For 2015 this has not changed since a recent article reported that more than 50% of all wine imported into Costa Rica comes from Chile.
For price comparisons the Chilean study of the Costa Rica wine industry did a price analysis of wines in the Costa Rican market. Below are the findings:
If I compare prices of Wines sold in the Costa Rican supermarket against the prices of wines sold in the US by way of online merchants you can see the price differences.
A bottle of Columbia Crest H3 Merlot in Costa Rica sells for $35.30 vs $18.99 in the U.S
On the other hand a bottle of Barefoot Cabernet sells in Costa Rica for $ 9.89 and in the U.S. for $8.99 so less of difference at that end.
The main difference is that we get to enjoy our more expensive bottle of wine sitting in an outdoor deck year around – pura vida !