When Something Is Allegedly “Too” Black: NPR Says African-Americans Are Keeping Moscato In Business. What’s Wrong With That?

July 5, 2013  |  


NPR published a rather disturbing article on black people and Moscato last week. Even before reading the article, the title: Moscato Finds A Younger, Hipper — And Browner — Audience offered readers the notion that Moscato is not just any other wine. It is the wine for those who can be seen trying to save a dime and bumping Waka Flocka or Drake. It is not the wine for the upper-echelon, but for those who (supposedly) live check-to-check, inhabit communities that are crime infested, and are within an age group that is far from receiving AARP according to “research.” So how did Moscato become so popular to young people of color?

Well, you better thank hip-hop for that. We all know our favorite rappers are always promoting some type of liquor.  Snoop Dogg (or Lion) with Gin, Jay- Z with Cristal (that ended quickly) and even Busta Rhymes with Courvoisier.  Moscato was introduced to us by the likes of Drake, Lil Kim, Gucci Mane and Kanye West to name a few. Whenever rappers promote a brand of alcohol, it is because they are showcasing to their fans a peek inside their lavish lifestyles.  But not to throw shade, wine connoisseur and the author of  Moscato Finds A Younger, Hipper — And Browner — Audience, Sam H. Sanders tells us there’s nothing really lavish about Moscato:

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.

The senior vice president of beverage/alcohol practice at Nielsen, Danny Brager, has been following the wine category for ten years. He states the variety of Moscato brands has doubled in the past three years. Given past marketing research, Brager expects that the sales of Moscato will grow 25 percent a year. Brager also informs us that the average wine drinker is white, prime of their senior citizen lives, and sitting comfy on their income. Brager states that such is not the case for Moscato drinkers.

“Much more African-American,” says Brager. “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.

Sanders reveals to us:

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 intimidated 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.

This statement is problematic. Sanders is using facts about the quality of moscato against the consumer. Instead of stating that he does not understand the fascination with Moscato and black people, his tone and perception becomes patronizing, if not, insulting. He is telling those who indulge in the wine that they are not “real” wine drinkers because they are investing in a current fad and they will never branch out to Pinot Noir, Riesling or Zinfandel because those wines are…intimidating (and expensive). Does Mr. Sanders know this many black people? If so, ask him to show you the receipts. He does know one, though, and observed her intently:

I found dozens of these moscato wine converts, like Quintasha Scorza. Scorza first sampled moscato while she was working at an Olive Garden restaurant. After that, she was hooked. She was at the winery with a group of girlfriends — all black — celebrating one of their birthdays. All of the women in the group — and many of the people in the winery — were drinking wines like moscato. Moscato is their gateway wine.

The problem with all this is the perception that black people making a public and financial investment in Moscato suddenly lessens its prestige or value. And it’s something we definitely buy into often. It’s as though the purpose of the piece was to have an “a ha!” moment at the expense of black folks who drink Moscato, to let them know that the joke has been on them:  it’s not strong, it’s not luxurious, and that way too many of us are fans of a weak and cheap drink. Thanks for the information, but what’s wrong with that? If you like Moscato, you like Moscato. But what often happens, and is a problem, is that when someone puts focus on the fact the black folks are buying a lot of a popular item like Christian Louboutins (“Red bottoms”), or a Moscato, some of us will automatically act like we’re all of a sudden too good for it.

“Oh I don’t buy Michael Kors bags anymore.” “I don’t do wedge sneakers anymore. It has become a hood trend.” There are black people right now who act like they’re no longer interested in drinking Moscato because everyone and their mama is up on it, and because it appears that it’s no longer the exclusive (dessert) wine you can impress folks with on date night or at a dinner party. Therefore, Moscato could become another fad people will soon ignore like the plague. But if you like something, despite who else is loving it, rocking it, drinking it–whatever–why stop? Why assume that because other black folks gain an appreciation for an item, the worth leaves it? Instead of letting folks tell us that too many black people like something to the point that we assume it’s losing what makes it high-end, we need to like what we like and stop jumping on so many fads in the first place that are costing us good money. If it’s that easy to turn your back on it, you might not want to buy it in the first place.

So will this societal trend leave us remembering good times or force us to look deep within ourselves and the internal racism we like to forget we have? You be the judge.

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