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August 31, 2011

Two New World Classics

 It’s been a full generation since wines from the New World first emerged to challenge the supremacy of the classic European, especially French, crus and cuvées.  Since then some have established themselves as qualitatively comparable.  Many Cabernets from northern California, for example, have proven that they consistently can hold their own with the classified growths from the Medoc, much as select Shirazes from South Australia have done with Syrah-based wines from Hermitage and other appellations in the northern Rhône Valley.  

Other New World wines, though, still toil in the long shadows cast by the Old World originals. Tuscany still sets the bar for Sangiovese, as Piedmont does with Nebiollo, northern Spain with Tempranillo, and both Germany and Alsace with Riesling.  Despite some claims to the contrary, the same is true with the two Burgundy varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Whether they care to admit it or not, the aim of most ambitious Chardonnay and Pinot producers around the world is to make wines that can rival those from the Côte d’Or.  Some succeed sometimes, but very few do so steadily.

For all the sound and fury generated by the emergence of high-scoring, critically acclaimed wines from Australia, the United States, South America, and the rest of the grape-growing newcomers, the world’s classic wines remain for the most part European.

There are, however, two New World classics, wines that may have begun by echoing Old World models but that have gone on to become global benchmarks of their own.  Malbec from Argentina and Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand are today the world leaders with those two popular grape varieties.  They provide the models that vintners elsewhere look to for inspiration, and set the flavor profiles that consumers recognize and so seek out.  

Argentinean Malbec has had an easier road to the top, as this grape, once a significant part of red Bordeaux blends, plays only a minor role today.  The only French appellation in which it remains a major player is Cahors, where the wines can be good but are rarely excellent.  Vintners in Cahors are trying to make their often rustic wines more supple, aromatic, and more obviously fruit-forward--which is to say, more like Malbecs from Argentina.  So too are their compatriots experimenting with Malbec in California, Washington, Australia, and Chile, all places where the success (both commercial and critical) of Argentinean Malbec has led people to try to produce something comparable.  If imitation, as the old saying goes, is flattery, the Argentines should be feeling quite flattered.

The situation is a bit more complicated with Sauvignon Blanc.  It continues to make excellent wines in the cheek-by-jowl appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in the Loire Valley, and to be a major part of the white blend in Bordeaux.  Yet until Sauvignon Blancs from the South Island of New Zealand burst on the international scene about twenty-five years ago, few people thought of this grape as being capable of producing world-class wines.

The astonishing success of Kiwi Sauvignon, with its crystal-clear purity of flavor and pungently aggressive aromatics, has fundamentally changed how people throughout the wine drinking world think of this particular variety.  Even more to the point, for ambitious vintners elsewhere, it has become the model they need to acknowledge.  Many try to make wines that emulate it.  Others use it as a jumping-off point.  But everyone has to deal with it, and as a result wines made with Sauvignon Blanc the world over (including Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé) have become notably brighter, crisper, and more vivacious recently.       

Not everyone loves New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Argentinean Malbec, and no one would claim that they are the very best wines being made today.  They may be, however, the most important wines--new classics setting new standards.  That’s because, more than any others, they provide evidence that the New World wine revolution may actually be just that--a genuine upsetting of the old guard, and not just an expansion of the existing order.
Posted by Paul Lukacs at 10:24 AM

August 28, 2011

Late Summer Savor: Tomato Salad Tmes Three

August seems to have morphed into September in the blink of an eye.  One of the surest indications of this phenomenon is the appearance of apples at the farmers’ markets.  I’ve nothing against apples per se, but to my taste they will never replace peaches, nectarines, berries, and the rest of summer’s cornucopia of fruits.  

Only a few of the stone fruits can still be found here in the mid-Atlantic region, but tomatoes will linger on a bit longer.  To maximize the full exquisite pleasure of the remaining days of full-flavored, juicy tomatoes, I recently went through a whirlwind binge of making tomato salads.  I was seeking something different, a variation on the standard tomato-basil-feta salads we enjoy at our house all summer long.

For this bit of gustatory experimentation I culled through two authors whose books have been my favorites for the past year.  Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook “Tomatoes Vinaigrette” yields a salad that is unusual and much more delicious than you might think just reading the ingredients:  Vinegar, olive oil, chopped capers, a teaspoon of finely chopped cornichon, a tiny bit of minced onion, salt, pepper, minced parsley and chives, all of which are whisked together and poured over sliced tomatoes.  The key to the salad is to peel the tomatoes.  “Do not be tempted to skip peeling the tomatoes,” cautions Hesser.  “The soft peeled texture is vital to the dish.”

I love Dorie Greenspan’s delicious offerings in Around My French Table, and so will you if you don’t already have the book.  Her “Tomato and Pepper Salad” is merely a footnote to the recipe for Muenster Cheese Souffle, but this lively little salad goes with any number of dishes, and is colorful as well as versatile.  It calls for grape tomatoes cut in half, ½ red bell pepper and one roasted red pepper (both diced), salt, pepper, a pinch of cumin and a drizzle of olive oil.  I also added a squeeze of lemon when I made it to brighten the flavors even more.

The third tomato salad recipe is from one of Mark Bittman’s old New York Times pieces that I found lurking in my files.  It calls for halved cherry or grape tomatoes, soy sauce, a splash of sesame oil, and minced basil or cilantro.  “The tomato juice-soy thing is incredible,” writes Bittman.

As for pairing wine with any of these salads, you’re on your own.  Drop me a note at mthomas@winereviewonline.com and let me know if you come up with any interesting matches.  Meanwhile, I’m going back to noshing on tomatoes tossed with basil, feta and a splash of olive oil.

Posted by Marguerite Thomas at 3:20 PM

August 26, 2011

Reconnecting with an Old Friend

Those of us of a certain age remember when the Napa Valley was a quiet farming community where prunes shared the land alongside the grapes. Trendy restaurants weren't even a gleam in Chef Michael Chiarello's eye, and the Robert Mondavi Winery was the new kid in town.

Back in the day, the Napa Valley wine boom had not yet reached a full-throated roar, but there were signs that it was coming, with exciting new wineries springing up from the city of Napa at the southern tip of the valley all the way to Calistoga, its northern border.

You know the names: Chateau Montelena, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Trefethen, Cakebread, Freemark Abbey, Caymus, Grgich-Hills, Schramsberg. The list goes on.

The landscape of the Napa Valley has changed, however, over these past three decades, with literally hundreds of new wineries and hordes of visitors seeking the latest and best new thing.

Winemaker Steve Rogstad called them the "lifestyle" wineries when I caught up with him recently. Rogstad has been a winemaker at Cuvaison for nearly a decade now. He served prior stints at Clos Pegase, Rombauer and Saintsbury, all in the valley.

Cuvaison was in that early wave of wineries that ushered in the current era of success and prosperity that have made the Napa Valley America's premiere wine region. Its first vineyard was established in 1969. John Thacher, the winemaker before Rogstad, was named Winemaker of the Year by Wine & Spirits Magazine in 1988.

The history and record of achievement at Cuvaison is impressive. Yet, until I sat down with Rogstad over dinner recently, I realized I hadn't tasted a Cuvaison wine in several years. Not that I could remember.

The latest new best things in wine seem to get most of the attention these days. So it was high time I took a step back and visited an old friend, in this case Cuvaison.

At one time, the Cuvaison Chardonnay had been among my favorites. It was a no-brainer whenever I spied it on a wine list. First because it was always well balanced and delicious, second because it was usually well priced.

So I was especially curious about the 2009 Cuvaison Carneros Chardonnay Rogstad was about to pour; more so after he told me the retail price was a modest $22 a bottle. I immediately picked up on the signature note of lemon oil/lemon creme that is what I look for in the finer California Chardonnays such as Nickel & Nickel, Patz & Hall and Kistler.

This Chardonnay was beautifully balanced and exhibited considerable finesse and refinement.

I was thinking how nice it was to reconnect with an old friend.

What really impressed me, though, was the 2009 Carneros Estate Pinot Noir at $35. It struck me as very Burgundian, and perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised, for Rogstad did a brief stint in France early in his career. The Pinot was light and elegant on the palate, yet not lacking for flavor, and it had a bit of grip on the finish, which is so French. So many California and Oregon Pinots today are almost sweet on the finish.

The one new thing Rogstad had to show me was a luxury Cabernet Sauvignon called Brandlin, made from grapes grown in the historic Brandlin family vineyard on Mount Veeder. Cuvaison purchased the vineyard in 1998, and the decision was made to bottle a Cabernet that would serve as a tribute to the family's place in the history of Napa Valley viticulture.

This is a serious Cab at the serious price of $90 a bottle. What this wine told me was that while Cuvaison clearly has solid ties to the past greatness of the Napa Valley, it just as clearly has at least one foot planted in the new Napa Valley that exists today.

Posted by Robert Whitley at 10:18 AM

August 24, 2011

A Bittersweet Moment

The upcoming publication of a new book by Gerald Asher (A Vineyard in My Glass, University of California Press) strikes me as a bittersweet moment--sweet because no one writes about wine more elegantly or evocatively, but bitter because his sort of writing seems so rare these days.  

There really are only two kinds of wine writing, or for that matter wine talk.  One dissects and analyzes.  The other conveys appreciation and enjoyment.  The first is dominant today, the second almost anachronistic.

Gourmet Magazine’s wine editor for thirty years, Gerald Asher long has been a master of the second sort, usually through personal essays in which he uses his own experience to convey shared truths.  He invariably writes about wine in context--both the context of it’s being savored, and the context of its origin.

Those go together.  Think how often you have taken a sip of a particular wine and paid no real attention to it, focusing instead on the conversation you’re having or the menu you’re reading.  Five or ten minutes later, having tasted the wine again, you notice it anew.  Then you begin to think about it, or in Asher’s wonderfully chosen word, to “wonder” about it, and so to enjoy it more deeply.  It’s only then, he suggests, that you begin to wonder “why it is as it is.”    

Why certain wines are as they are is the theme of A Vineyard in My Glass.  And sweet it is indeed.  Asher’s prose is as delicious as his varied subjects.

The bitterness, though, comes from the fact that virtually all the essays in the book were written over a decade ago.  The problem isn’t that they are dated, but that this sort of writing rarely can find a commercial venue anymore.  Today’s wine drinkers apparently don’t want to read it--or at least that’s what many editors and publishers think.

Wine is worth caring about it because the enjoyment of it, while sometimes simple, can be rich and complex.  We may sometimes use those last two words to describe a particular wine, but in truth they express our experience of the wine more than the liquid itself.  Gerald Asher’s essays make that abundantly clear--which is why they are well worth reading (and re-reading).  As he once memorably explained, “only idiots take their pleasures frivolously.”
Posted by Paul Lukacs at 8:51 AM

August 23, 2011

Yanks in Venice

If you could take a year off to live as an ex-pat in a foreign country, where would you go?  For me, it would surely be France.  But where, exactly—Paris? Beaune? Provence?

 I suppose it’s just as well that this isn’t a real option for me since I can’t make up my mind which part of France I’d settle in.  For Barry Frangipane, taking a year off was an option, and he didn’t hesitate over the destination: with his wife, Debbie, and their dog and cat in tow, he headed off to spend a year living in Venice. 

Frangipane (with co-author Ben Robbins) reports on their experiences in The Venice Experiment: A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad.

 How much you like this lightweight little book book will depend somewhat on how you feel about the chatty, informal prose style, but I’m sure you’ll find much to like about Barry and Debbie.  They are intrepid, enthusiastic, generous and appreciative visitors who are willing to do whatever it takes to become a genuine part of their adopted community.

 Learn Italian?  They sign up for classes five days a week at the Istituto Venezia, and when they graduate three months later, not only are they proficient enough to converse with Italian friends and neighbors, they’ve also formed new friendships with fellow students from around the world.

In fact, the most impressive thing about Barry Frangipane is his willingness and talent for befriending all sorts of people.  Shopkeepers, the local firemen, the owner of his favorite gelateria, his landlord—all become friends with whom the Frangipanes have dinner, and drinks, and coffee (I actually began to worry about the amount of caffeine Barry consumed;  “On a typical day,” he writes, “I would have four or five espressos on my way to the market, as every friend along the way would want me to stop and have coffee with him.“).  Frangipane even chats up a couple of local beggars, and after learning that that they are ex-Yugoslavians trying to find work in Italy he begins dropping off bags of groceries for them and even ends up being invited to dinner at their place, which happens to be a barge.  Of the many bonds he forms, the most touching one is surely his friendship with his eighty-year old neighbor, Gastone.

T he Venice Experiment does not turn out to be entirely la dolce vita.  The Frangipanes’ tribulations include having to move to another apartment midway through the year, and they have to contend with the unpleasantly hot Venetian summer, but all things considered, every day really is a buona adventuare

At the beginning of their adventure the Frangipanes seem a bit squeamish about the local cuisine, as Barry writes of “forcing down” bites of fish lasagna and “chewy pieces of fried squid,” but by the end of the year they are gobbling up Venetian specialties such as Bovoeti (tiny snails skewered on toothpicks) and “Sarde in Saor, sardines cooked in onions and sautéed in a vinegar sweet and sour sauce.”

I would have liked to hear more about their culinary exploits, and I certainly wished thirstily for some descriptions of the wines they drank.  Prosecco is occasionally mentioned, though never in any mouthwatering detail, and I found myself gnashing my teeth when he alludes to such things as “a bottle of red wine” (what kind of red wine?!) or  writes, “We relaxed with some wine and a variety of grappa” (dio mio, tell us more about that grappa!).

Oh well, these minor complaints stem only from my own personal obsessions, although I’ll bet anyone reading Wine Review Online would feel the same way.  So maybe what we all need to do is take a year off for our own “Experiment.”  And when that happens let’s hope that we all reach the same conclusion Barry Frangipane did.  “As we learned each time that we walked out of our Venetian apartment,” he observes in the final paragraph, “it’s not the destination that’s important, it’s the people we meet along the way that make all the difference.”  

Posted by Marguerite Thomas at 3:21 PM

August 16, 2011

Capital Pleasures

Do you love French Impressionist painting, French food and French wine?  Of course you do, so if you’re going to be anywhere near Washington DC next month you’ll want to drop in at the Phillips Collection.   To commemorate its 90th anniversary, America’s first museum of modern art is spotlighting the Renoir masterpiece Luncheon of the Boating Party.

In partnership with the Phillips, Washington’s Sofitel Lafayette Square will be translating the spirit of Renoir’s festive boathouse scene into a dining celebration.  Since you’ll be hungering for a real-life feast after feasting your eyes on Renoir’s painting, you’ll want to make your way to the corner of Lafayette Square, bordering the White House.  There, at Sofitel’s iCi Urban Bistro, chef Franck Loquet will be offering prix fixe lunch and dinner menus designed to reflect Renoir’s oh-so-French spirit of joie de vivre.

During the month of September, the Bistro’s Renoir-inspired 3-course menus ($40 for lunch, $60 for dinner) include traditional French appetizers such as Burgundy-style Escargots, oeufs en meurette (eggs poached in red wine), and warm goat cheese salad, with main course choices including items such as Coq au Vin, sea bass roasted in salt crust, and salmon with sorrel beurre blanc.  Among the featured wines will be Domaine Ott Rosé; Domaine Bourillon Dorleans Vouvray; Lauverjat “Moulin des Vrilleres” Sancerre; and Louis Jadot Pinot Noir Bourgogne.

I’ve stood in front of Renoir’s boating party painting many times.  My gaze inevitably settles on the brunette sitting towards the back of the scene, near the center of the canvas.  She seems to have just lifted a wine glass to her lips.  Some critics think she looks bored, but to me her eyes are smiling, as if she’s enjoying what she’s tasting.  The whole scene strikes me as one of idealized summery pleasures, heightened by the remnants of a just-finished meal, half-filled wine bottles and empty wine glasses on the table.

The languid poses, the fragments of sentences frozen in time, and the smiling, slightly flushed faces are all a reminder that wine is the beverage of simple enjoyment and conviviality.  Yes, some of us do like to analyze what’s in our glass, to compare tasting notes with like-minded folks, and to brush up on the names of obscure grape varieties and chateaux.  For most of the world’s wine drinkers, however, a glass of vin blanc or rouge is merely about the simple delight that can be found in good wine, good food and good friendships. Whether you’re gathering with friends in a boathouse, a bistro or a backyard, savor the moment, and with luck, the expression of attentive pleasure that I see in Renoir’s model will flit across your face too.
Posted by Marguerite Thomas at 5:06 PM

August 8, 2011

Sparkling Long Island

“If it’s not sparkling what’s the pointe?” That’s the slogan at Sparkling Pointe Winery.  When it comes to wine, I’m not one to argue with this philosophy, and having tasted Sparkling Pointe’s two award-winning wines at Critics’ Challenge International Wine Competition a couple of months ago, when I found myself briefly on Long Island’s North Fork a couple of days ago I made it a point (pointe?) to stop in at the winery. 

The brand new tasting room facility (it opened in 2009) is a series of vast, light filled spaces whose elegant, pale color scheme is jazzed up with large, colorful canvases painted by Brazilian artist Claudio Paciullo, who has also designed the bottle labels.

Turns out that Sparkling Pointe owners Cynthia and Thomas Rosicki are enamored of all things Brazilian: the people, the culture, the food, and certainly the annual Carnival festivities.  Are you concerned about a possible disconnect between the estate’s beautifully crafted, elegant sparkling wines and the riotous, bawdy behavior one generally associates with Rio’s mirth and merriment?

No worries.  Sparkling Pointe is proof that beautiful, well-made bubbly is the most versatile wine on earth, adaptable to all cultures, suitable for all occasions, a fine companion to any mood and almost any food. 

Sparkling Pointe makes only Méthode Champenoise wines. Tasting the superbly crafted sparklers you would think that a talented and experienced winemaker was behind them, and you would be right. 

Sparkling Pointe’s winemaker is the much acclaimed Gilles Martin.  Martin was born near France’s Champagne region, he has a degree in enology from the University of Montpellier, and he has worked at prestigious wineries, including Roederer Estate in California, and Delas Freres in the Rhone Valley.

Among Sparkling Pointe wines are the flagship 2007 Brut (60% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier), which has tiny bubbles and crisp, lean citrus and apple notes.  It was a Platinum Award winner at the 2011 Critic’s Challenge competition ($29). 

The nonvintage Topaz Impérial, the other Sparkling Pointe Platinum winner, is a debonair pale pinkish-apricot colored rosé, soft and fruity, with persistence and balance on the finish; it is made from the same grapes as the Brut ($37). 2005 Blanc de Blancs (100 percent Chardonnay), has spent four years on the lees, and is floral, fruity and charmingly yeasty ($42).  2001 Brut Séduction, 42% Pinot Noir, 58% Chardonnay, is an altogether fleshier, creamier and toasty sparkler, with a beguiling hint of raspberry flavor on the finish ($50). Non-vintage Cuvée Carnaval, a festive, extra-dry fizz with an edge of sweetness, has good fruit character and an elusive, exotic buzz on the finish thanks to a dash of Gewurztraminer added to the dosage ($27).

I was surprised and delighted to discover another fine sparkling wine just a couple of miles down the road from Sparkling Pointe, at Shinn Estate Vineyards.  David Page and his wife Barbara Shinn produce a host of exceedingly impressive wines (including a sterling Sauvignon Blanc and a couple of notable Bordeaux style red blends), but since I’m on a bubbles binge right now it’s the 2007 Brut Sparkling I want to single out in this instance.  Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, it is classy, clean, compelling and complex, with fine bubbles, and refreshing acidity well balanced by bright fruit.

Posted by Marguerite Thomas at 1:25 PM

August 7, 2011

Rosé Reminder

You probably don’t need a reminder of how thoroughly pleasurable rosé wines are at this sweltering time of year, but I confess that sometimes I do.  Just as I tend to forget how much I enjoy dessert wines, I sometimes need to have someone else present me with a glass of cold rosé on the right evening with the right food to jolt me back into appreciating them at the level they deserve.

A friend performed that very service for me last week, so it seems like good vinous karma to pass the favor along just in case you too may have forgotten.

In terms of performance at the summer table, rosés are arguably the most versatile of all wines as partners for food, falling as they do into the gray area between whites and reds.  They show a little more body and depth of flavor than most whites, yet they can be thoroughly chilled and made much more refreshing than even a light red.
This enables rosés to pair up beautifully with moderately robust foods like salmon, swordfish, tuna, chicken, pork or veal.  Moreover, they are superb with cold soups and many vegetarian dishes.  And for a quick, light summer meal, you just can't do better than a nice piece of fish and some sliced vegetables, all simply brushed with olive oil and grilled with a dusting of fresh herbs.  Add some crusty bread and a juicy, fresh rosé--and you'll be converted to the so-called Mediterranean diet for life.
Since the white Zinfandel fad has long since faded, almost all of the rosés you’ll find on store shelves these days are dry—or only very faintly sweet.  Good ones are made all over the world these days, but the very best ones still come from around the Mediterranean, and more specifically from the Mediterranean coast of France.  Many are attractively priced, including the following:
Jean-Luc Colombo, Vin de Pays de Mediterranée Rosé “Cape Bleue” 2010 ($12, Imported by Palm Bay International):  Juicy and playful but not overtly sweet, this is full of bright cherry fruit with a crisp, clean finish.
Domaine de Nizas, Coteaux de Languedoc Rosé 2010 ($14, Imported by Clos du Val):  Fresh and zesty but nevertheless engagingly nuanced, this packs a lot of bright red berry flavor on a light frame.
Vie Vité, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2010 ($15, Imported by Tourquoise Life):  This strikingly complex wine shows layered aromas and flavors and a delicious core of fruit recalling wild strawberries.  The packaging is also beautiful—but not as lovely as the wine.  And it gets better:  You might think that there’s nowhere to go but down after tasting this wine, but the fact is that you can take a big step up without even leaving this stable.  The Vie Vité, Côtes de Provence Rosé “Extraordinaire” 2010 ($22) really, truly lives up to its name, with even more intricate aromas and flavors than the regular wine, and its really marvelous depth of flavor doesn’t diminish it refreshment value.  This is a completely convincing wine…and a very powerful reminder!

Posted by Michael Franz at 11:31 AM

August 3, 2011

Demystifying Wine?

Wine is complicated.  It’s complicated to buy, to store, to open, even to appreciate and understand.  That’s why so many people in the wine business keep trying to simplify it.  The word one often hears is “demystify,” as in so-and-so wants to “demystify wine.”  (Just google that phrase and see how many people--everyone from vintners to retailers to writers and speakers--have set this as their goal.)  As Bill Citara wrote in the San Francisco Examiner a few years ago, “demystify” has become today’s wine “buzzword.”

It’s not hard to understand why.  Especially in America, a country with little history of wine appreciation, taking some of the mystery and, yes, pretension out of wine would seem to make it more inviting, and so to encourage more people to try it.  So forget all that gobbeley-gook wine speak.  Wine is simple.  Just trust your own taste buds and enjoy it.  Or as “Winophobia,” a video website that has “demystifying the wine world” as its stated goal, puts it, “wine should be fun!”

Well, I guess so.  But surely there are different kinds of fun, and I wonder if by so broadly embracing the egalitarian ideal of demystification we in America aren’t running the risk of robbing it of some of its most profound sorts of pleasure.  Wine is capable of providing intellectual and emotional as well as physical joy.  Trusting just your own taste buds can bring sensory fun, but little more.

In this regard, it strikes me as telling that the wines which provide the most varied pleasures tend to be those that we find complicated or, to use a better term, complex.  They prove compelling precisely because they do not smell and taste simple.  To enjoy them fully, one needs to taste them with head and heart as well as nose and tongue.

We tend to think that such distinctions come from the wines--in this corner, a simple “ordinaire,” in that corner a sophisticated cuvée.  There certainly is some truth to that.  I wonder, though, if the difference more often isn’t between wine drinkers.  Many, maybe most, people who buy wine today want to keep things simple.  As a result, the wines they drink end up tasting just that.

Demystifying wine sounds like a good idea until you stop and think about why wine matters to you.  After all, if you want solely physical pleasure, there’s not much mystification to begin with.  But if you want more, then as odd as it may sound, you end up wanting things to stay complicated.
Posted by Paul Lukacs at 10:29 AM

August 1, 2011

More Hispanics Choose Wine as Favorite Beverage

When drinkers in the United States are asked whether they most often consume wine, beer or liquor, wine now ties beer as the top choice, according to a recent Gallup poll.  More good news for wine producers who are looking for new markets is that wine consumption among Latinos has grown even more dramatically than for non-Hispanics over the past five years.

A study conducted by Experian Simmons, a consumer research firm, indicates that the number of glasses of wine consumed by Latinos increased by nearly 50 percent between 2005 and 2010 (the increase for non-Hispanics was a relatively modest 16 percent).  Part of the explanation for this uptick in Latino wine consumption is merely demographic, as half of the U.S. population increase over the past decade has been Hispanic, but a shift in socioeconomic and cultural development among longer-established Latinos in the U.S. is also a significant part of the equation.

Savvy wine producers are, of course, taking note of this burgeoning market.  Among the wineries targeting Latinos in advertising campaigns is Beringer Vineyards, which has produced Spanish-language commercials and educational programs for Latino TV networks in Southern California.  Many wineries are placing Spanish-language ads in supermarkets with a strong Hispanic customer base, and some are advertising wine on Spanish language billboards in South Texas, targeting the strong Latino population there. 

Another factor in successfully luring Hispanic drinkers away from beer and towards wine has been the efforts of Latino vintners themselves.  Their number is small but growing, and efforts to pitch their product to the Hispanic market are proving successful.

An article in Bloomberg Businessweek quotes Amelia Ceja, of Carneros’s Ceja Vineyards, who says that half of Ceja’s wine club is Hispanic, and that one way her wines are promoted is through dinners where she pairs traditional Mexican cuisine with Ceja Vineyards wines.  Ceja’s website also includes a selection of recipes along with wine pairing suggestions, including mussels in a spicy broth accompanied by Pinot Noir, seared salmon on a tomato-sweet pepper puree with Chardonnay, and a chocolate-sauced bread pudding with Cabernet Sauvignon.

With such tempting dishes, by all means hold the beer, bring on the wine!
Posted by Marguerite Thomas at 9:08 AM