There was a good story in the Wall Street Journal recently about the rise of Muscat, the sweet white wine made all over the world but closely associated with Italy where it is called Moscato. Last year this grape took off growing nearly 80% in sales from the year before. Nobody in the wine business saw this coming and prices for Muscat grapes and wine have gone through the roof.
Have wine consumers switched from dry wines to sweet wines nearly overnight? Is this a sign of The Apocalypse?
Looking a bit deeper into the story there have been signs of consumer preference for sweeter wines. A decade ago tankers of Australian Shriaz with a slight addition of concentrate to add residual sugar weaned Americans off Coke and into wine. If you browse your local wine store or supermarket you will also notice more “sweet red” blends on the shelf than ever. And I’ve seen a rise in sweet Riesling lately as well.
One ray of light in Lettie Teague’s article is that, “The biggest audience for Moscato is the ‘Millennial’ generation between 21 and 30 years of age,” according to research from Gallo. Further, these new young consumers, “found their own way,” and were not converted by any marketing push for the grape. As I wrote earlier in the week, my wine journey started with Muscat when I was in my early 20’s. Once wine became a part of my life I wanted to learn more which led to other grapes like Gewürztraminer and Riesling. Eventually not all of these wines were sweet and I got into Chardonnay, and later, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
I think Millennial consumers are just getting started with wine and will move past this sweet Muscat phase in a year or two. Until then we will see sweeter wines continue to grow as wineries jump on this trend. The sky isn’t falling; the wine market is expanding and for the first time the Millennial Generation is showing its impact.