NPR: "Moscato For a Younger, Hipper -- And Browner Audience"
Yup - that's really the title of a recent NPR piece that claims moscato, the sweet wine that comes from muscat grapes, is seeing a boom in sales from an untapped market.
The story, which is getting a lot of play, quotes Danny Brager, the senior vice president of beverage/alcohol practice at Nielsen.
Nielsen, the same people who track what America watches on television, also tracks drinking trends, like in this December 2012 study that finds (not surprisingly) that "males purchase more alcoholic beverages than females" and "wine samples, engaging in word-of-mouth and recalling exposure to advertising can greatly help boost this category's sales".
In the NPR piece, Brager shares that although "one would typically describe the average wine drinker as older, white and upper-income", moscato drinkers are "much more African-American, much more Hispanic, much younger, much lower-income, much more female."
The piece got reamed across the internet for being racially insensitive and stereotyping blacks. Most notably, Gawker blogger Caity Weaver lambasted the article and even included a screen capture of NPR's Tweet containing the original headline, "Moscato: The Gateway Wine For People of Color?"
And Gawker -- and even NPR's own outraged commenters -- certainly seem to have a valid point.
The article notes that Moscato is mentioned in quite a few rap songs, and American Idol judge Nicki Minaj is spokesperson and partner in a moscato wine cooler company named Myx Fusions, which features flavors like moscato and peach and moscato and coconut (sadly, Myx Fusions is not yet available in Florida).
Muscat grapes are grown in most regions and the wines are typically reasonably priced, with many moscatos selling for under $20 a bottle. But, according to NPR, it's the fact that moscato is "really sweet and has low alcohol content" that's making it popular with groups that are not traditionally wine lovers.
The piece states that, "people who don't think of themselves as wine drinkers, who are intimated by the idea of a wine tasting, who would never, ever try to search out "earthy tones" in a deep red -- those people drink moscato, and they like it."
What NPR's article is implying about minorities and their tastes in wine is pretty clear. But what about their prediction for the future of moscato wine and of moscato wine drinkers?
Well, Eric Arnold, an editor at Tastingroom.com, thinks that liking moscato could lead to an appreciation of other wines. Referencing rapper Drake's singing about lobster, and shrimp, and a glass of moscato. "If we could build a time machine and go listen to a Drake song three, four years from now, I would be willing to bet you that he's long since moved on from moscato and he's singing to his girlfriend about Napa cabernet or burgundy or something like that."
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to South Florida dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.