Coming to Grips

Self-assessment is such a tentative business. Can we truly see ourselves as others see us? I think not, but many folks have a much more interesting view of themselves than those of us on the other side of those eyeballs.

We often find ourselves witty, when others just see us as really stupid. We believe our viewpoints make perfectly logical sense, when others just see us as really stupid. We view the clothes we wear as fashionable, making the proper statement about us, when others just see us as really stupid.

Apply all of those differing viewpoints to our hair, our footwear, our penchant moving our lips while reading and our talent for carrying on a coherent conversation while chewing on an egg sandwich – among a host of qualities that we value in ourselves and for which others are tolerant…or not.

I am reminded of our shared shortcomings and peccadilloes when it comes to the subject of adult beverages, namely cocktails and wine.

Americans are said to "talk dry and drink sweet." We proclaim our allegiance to big, alcohol-laden, tannin-bomb wines in the red range, then step away and consume massive amounts of Coca-Cola®, or drench our coffee and tea with sugar. We love to discuss all the wonderful red wines we are consuming, almost to the exclusion of other colors, but white wines always outsell red wines, and at least 1 of every 5 bottles of wine sold in the United States is a chardonnay. Cabernet sauvignon accounts for half as many sales as chardonnay, about 12 percent of total sales.

Since everyone likes to talk about the red wines they have enjoyed, but someone has to be drinking whites, the question is are we really drinking what we like and talking about other things because we fear the opinions of others? Some of the most pleasurable wines on the market today are sauvignon blancs from New Zealand, and the public’s appreciation of these wines is reflected in the sales, which are up over 11% from this time last year. Have you tried them? Would you admit to it?

For me, this entire line of thought recently started up (again) as I read about the rise in the sales of Moscato wines. These sweeter white wines seem to be poised for big things. The consuming public has tried them and likes what they bring to the party, a fruit-forward, lower-alcohol, fresh style, just begging to be placed on ice and enjoyed as cold as the imbiber likes.

What is most amazing here is that people are admitting to liking these wines. Many folks have put down their white zinfandels and picked up moscato. That’s not such a stretch for that crowd, but other people who like more structured and bolder wines are also trying moscato. The result is moscato being billed as “the next big thing.” By the way, there always has to be a next big thing. Even in a business as changeable as the wine industry, where vintage variations bring annual change, there has to be something else, something very different, just around the bend.

Here’s the problem with moscato: there is not enough of it. It seems the public’s penchant for saying one thing and doing another caught many wineries unaware. Moscato was simply not viewed as a cash-cow crop so no one put vines into the ground. Now we may be experiencing a moscato wine shortage as measured against demand. Ain’t that a bitch?

Winemakers have spent the last five years trying to catch up with the demand for pinot noir created by a movie, and now the public has determined that a grape of so-so quality, but priced below the $10 threshold, is what it really wanted after all. It’s enough to cause a winery accountant to toss in the tractor. Especially after all that money was spent on high-end French aging barrels that are not needed for moscato.

Not to worry, the expansion in production by the world wine market is working to meet the consumers’ demand for the product.

Let me hasten here to come to the aid of my fellow New Orleanians, as if they need my support in any matter. We are not a fickle lot. We tend to move along a pretty steady path, trying new beverages from time to time (Jägermeister anyone? Thought not.), but usually drinking pretty much what we have always enjoyed. Think Sazerac and Ramos Gin Fizz.

So while we like new sensations, we like the other stuff too. And rather than rush off to Fadland, we’ll have a Pimm’s Cup, thank you.

Nevertheless, moscato wines can work quite well here, given our penchant for quaffing non-challenging beverages that have a bit of a chill about them.

But let’s get a grip on the realities of what we are drinking and when. If we like sweeter things, we should face up to the fact and seek them out without fear of judgment by some snob who wonders if we possess a serious character flaw that could threaten the existence of civilization as we know it.

We should have the confidence to drink what we like…all the time…in front of everybody.

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