All this time, I thought I chose wine based on my individual taste preference. Little did I know, rappers dictate which wines black people buy and the latest drink for “people of color” is moscato. Let me explain. After Lil Kim and Drake taught us about the dessert wine, we flocked to liquor stores to drink moscato to replace champagne (we had a falling out with Cristal, because Jay-Z told us to). Now, with encouragement from hip hop stars, we’ve embraced Moscato as a gateway wine. Also, we like it because it’s cheap, sweet and easy for people who don’t know a lot about wine to understand. Maybe when our palette matures, we’ll embrace other more refined and sophisticated types of wine, too! You know, like the kind white people drink. Unless, of course, a rapper prompts us to move on to another drink altogether.
Does that sound ridiculous to you? Well, that’s how a new NPR article, titled “Moscato Finds A Younger, Hipper — And Browner — Audience,” reads to several critics. The piece, written by Sam H. Sanders, explains the recent boom in the Moscato business among the black, hip hop-loving crowd, thanks to rappers and a shared sweet tooth among brown people:
“[Danny Brager, the senior vice president of beverage/alcohol practice at Nielsen] says one would typically describe the average wine drinker as older, white and upper-income, and they are equally split by gender. Not so with moscato drinkers.
“Much more African-American,” says Brager. “Much more Hispanic, much younger, much lower-income, much more female.”
Brager says African-Americans are three times more likely to drink moscato than some other table wine.
That’s believable, especially if you listen to hip-hop.”
Moscato is a perfect fit for lower-income, brown people, Sanders writes, because it’s cheap, sweet and appealing to uninitiated wine drinkers:
But despite moscato’s popularity, the strange thing about hip-hop’s fascination with the beverage is that the wine is not at all high-end: It’s a relatively cheap white wine made from the muscat grape. Some of the very best bottles can cost less than $50.
And moscato is really sweet and has low alcohol content. Sweet enough and weak enough, in fact, to make a wine drinker out of anyone, which is why winemakers love it so much. 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.
The article hints at classism by citing the damage done to a brand’s reputation when the hip hop crowd starts drinking it:
“It’s unclear how moscato got so big with hip-hop — and black people — so quickly. The New York Times traced the origins of the affinity to comments that Cristal champagne’s managing director made in an interview with Esquire. Asked whether Cristal’s association with a “bling lifestyle” might hurt the brand, he said, “That’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it.” Soon after, in 2006, Jay-Z started a Cristal boycott. That would leave the perfect opening for a sweet drink like moscato to step into the hip-hop scene, no?”
He explains that the Moscato brand has been damaged by black people as well:
“Over the course of my interviews for this story, a handful of wine experts wouldn’t even be interviewed for the story. If you Google “moscato,” very soon you’ll find blog entries decrying the drink as “ghetto.” As much as moscato fans like the drink, there’s a certain snobbery that dismisses it altogether.”
Snobbery permeates the article, according to some angry readers. One commenter writes:
“From what I am reading on FB, I am clearly not the only one who questions the language and implications of this blog post. The Gateway Wine for People of Color–really? I don’t even know where to start with this: the associations of gateway with addictive behavior; the implication that people of color can’t be wine connoisseurs; or that Hip Hop dictates the choices of all people of color. Very disappointing–even offensive–NPR…”
There’s also the fact that an entire article is dedicated to what black people drink. Solange Knowles tweeted, “And are we trending what wine white people are drinking ? Or is that not fascinating enough…..?”
Another commenter echoed Solange’s sentiments:
“As a black woman I am sooo sooo tired of being put on a petri dish and studied under a microscope by both conservative AND liberal media alike. I can’t go online without articles about what “I” drink and who “I” date and whether or not “I’m” overweight. WHY DO THESE STORIES EXIST? They are not “stories” at all. All they do is promote the idea that blacks are “others”. The essence of this story — we are influenced by our entertainment. DUH. So is everyone!! Why is it being couched as race specific? How many white girls bought Skinny Margaritas because of Bethenny Frankel? How many white guys buy Dos Equis because of the Dos Equis guy. Why aren’t those “stories” too?”