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.
One of my surprise finds at the recent Family Winemakers of California tasting in San Francisco was the wines of La Sirena. I began my two days of tasting focusing on just white wines and this was one of my first stops when I noticed winemaker Heidi Barrett was pouring. Heidi is a winemaking super star with a track record for making blockbuster Cabernets at places like Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Rubicon and Grace Family. Today she is consulting winemaker at eight wineries including Amuse Bouche, Paradigm, Revana, Barbour, Lamborn, and Fantesca. But La Sirena is her personal project with husband and Napa Valley legend Bo Barrett, co-founder & winemaker of Chateau Montelena.
When I asked her about this wine, Heidi said she wanted to do something fun and different from what she has done elsewhere. She was certainly influenced by the style of wines made from Moscato Bianco in Italy’s Trentino but Moscato Azul seems to be a fresh New World interpretation of this variety which almost always is made in an off-dry or sweet style in California. The grapes come from a vineyard in Calistoga near where La Sirena is made and the Barrett’s have their own vineyard. Besides the wine, the striking blue bottle and matching synthetic cork also make an impression.
La Sirena, “Moscato Azul” Muscat Canelli, Napa Valley 2007 ($30) – Very light straw color in the glass with an explosively floral nose of mango, pineapple, orange blossoms and lychee. Light and clean on the palate with tropical fruit and citrus flavors finishing bone dry with good acidity. A truly unique white worth seeking out that would be an excellent match with brunch fare.
Synthetic cork closure
Buy this wine online
Note: Since this wine was tasted at a trade event I’m only using my 5 star rating system.
Today’s podcast is another vintner profile interviewing Willamette Valley Vineyards founder and President Jim Bernau. I also play a podcast promo and talk about a new poll on Winecast.
00:21 – Welcome, show theme and sponsor message
03:07 – Interview with Jim Bernau
19:44 – Tasting Notes
19:58 – Willamette Valley Vineyards, Riesling 2005 ($12)
20:56 – Willamette Valley Vineyards, Pinot Gris 2005 ($16) +
21:15 – Willamette Valley Vineyards, Pinot Noir, “Whole Cluster” 2005 ($18)
21:45 – Willamette Valley Vineyards, Pinot Noir, “Vintage Selection” 2003 ($22)
22:06 – Willamette Valley Vineyards, Pinot Noir, “Estate” 2003 ($40) *
23:04 – Willamette Valley Vineyards, Pinot Noir, “Freedom Hill” 2002 (~$45)
23:38 – Willamette Valley Vineyards, Frizzante 2002 ($12/half bottle)
24:19 – Best of Tasting *
24:55 – Best Value +
25:25 – The Frank Truth promo
27:15 – New poll on the blog
29:02 – Contact details
29:31 – Next show theme
Copyright 2006 Acan Media, Inc. Licensed to the public under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
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