Tag Archives: viticulture

US Latinos consuming more wine, but is anyone paying attention?

20 Oct

Earlier this month I came across an article entitled “Hispanics in the U.S. are developing a taste for wine” (Daily Breeze, Oct. 9, 2011 page A4). The article cited research from Experian Simmons that indicated U.S. Latinos are leading the pack with regard to increased wine consumption as compared to non-Hispanic adults. To be more specific, Hispanics 21 and older drank 34 percent more wine between 2005 and 2011 than in previous years, while non-Hispanics of the same age saw an increase of only 14 percent.

Wow, I thought. More blog traffic! All kidding aside, I had seen the U.S. Census figures, and I realized that this trend could have a significant impact on the wine industry. Thrilled by the idea that more Latinos were discovering the wonders of wine, at the same time I panicked and thought somehow I’d missed the piñatas and confetti that heralded the findings.

I was wrong.

Not only was I unable to find the article itself online (I have a PDF of the hard copy for those of you who can’t get enough of my museum-quality photo), but I learned that the research was released back in March. Apparently nobody was all that interested, so here it was again in October with a new spin (interviews with a local Hispanic winemaker and a spokesperson for a Hispanic-owned grocery store chain).

So, what gives? Or as my father says, ¿Qué cosa?

Before we go down that path, today I came across another article about a new ad campaign that plays on the Spanish word for crazy.

Hmmm….wonder why that is. Maybe it’s because ‘crazy’ is how we all describe our feelings for wine. Could be because ‘loca’ evokes a certain Ricky Martin song, which makes me want to get up and salsa, and maybe pour myself a glass of sangría while I’m at it. Or perhaps it’s because of the sheer romance of the Spanish word ‘loca‘ and its link to California history and winemaking.

My opinion is that it will be a while before the wine industry begins taking Latino wine drinkers seriously. Which, if you read between the lines, means that they are not taking us seriously now.

A little disheartening, no? Not to beat a dead caballo, but maybe to demonstrate that I am not the only one who thinks this way, I found yet another story dating back to March of this year from the Dallas Observer blog. This one notes that there isn’t a whole lot of information out there about Latino wine consumers. The good news is that the Texas wine industry has taken note and that the Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute did some preliminary research in 2010. More to come, it seems.

My conclusion: Don’t wait for the wine industry to notice us. Use this time to cultivate your appreciation for wine, and invest some energy into educating yourself on its intricacies, subtleties and history. Enjoy wine with friends, family and food. And as a Napa Valley winemaker of Hispanic heritage told me, don’t be afraid of wine. Explore, taste and ask questions. And if you feel like it, put on a little Ricky Martin and get all loca with it.

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Wine by the Book

14 May

Tasting notes on the most popular red varietals. Notice my lucky "Hello Kitty" pen?

Every  time I tell people about the college summer I spent in Geneva, Switzerland perfecting my French, I get the inevitable salacious question about whether I learned French “à l’oreiller,” or ‘by the pillow.’ The Swiss countryside sojourn with the sophisticated banker who introduced me to wine was depressingly Rated G (see my April 27 post).  While I’ve had many a gringa girlfriend share stories about learning español in-country with the help of a Latin lothario, I, sadly, had no such luck with my French.

I did, however, approach my French studies the way I approach learning about anything I’m passionate about – intensely focused and relentlessly goal-oriented. Which brings me to wine. This weekend finds me cramming for the final exam in the UCLA Extension “Introduction to Wine” class. So I thought I’d take a break from the books to blog about getting schooled in wine, for those of you who are thinking of pursuing a more formal approach to learning about vino.

First things first: Ask yourself what you want to do with your wine knowledge. Maybe you’d like to…

  1. Sound reasonably smart at wine tastings
  2. Know what to look for when you’re buying or selecting wine
  3. Impress your hombre, mujer, amigos 
  4. Work in the wine business (restaurant, hospitality, retail, etc.)
  5. Become a sommelier
  6. Teach classes about wine
  7. Channel your inner Francis Ford Coppola and make your own wine
  8. Add to your impressive display of framed diplomas and certificates

For me, it’s the first two. That’s why I’m considering pursuing a certificate in Wine Education and Wine Management from UCLA Extension. I just learned last week that the program is now accredited, which will add credibility in some circles.

If you’re serious about working in the wine business, explore programs offered by the Court of Master Sommeliers, the Society of Wine Educators, the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, the California School of Culinary Arts, or the International Sommelier Guild (www.internationalsommelier.com).

If you really do want to make wine or rack up a prestigious diploma, one of the most reputable degree programs in winemaking is at UC Davis, where you can get a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in viticulture and enology. (El Full Disclosure: I am a graduate of the University of California and admit some bias toward UC programs!)

This is by no means an exhaustive list; if  you have additional resources or suggestions on pursuing a wine education, I’d love to hear from you. And as my Intro to Wine instructor cautions, be rightfully skeptical of any wine education program whose offers sound too good to be true.

Okay, I’ve procrastinated long enough – back to the books…and the botellas.

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