Tag Archives: Wine consumption

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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Meet the Winemaker – Rafael Rios

5 Aug

Rafael Rios: From vineyards to law school—and back again

A man outstanding in his tasting room. Rafael Rios in the Rios Wine Company tasting room in Calistoga, Calif. (photo courtesy of Rafael Rios)

What wine lover hasn’t fantasized about having their own label? Rafael Rios did, after several years as an attorney advising wine industry clients, and after having worked in the vineyards of Napa Valley alongside his younger brothers and parents when he was a teen. The vineyard work was not by choice. However the adult Rios experimented with winemaking in his garage, and discovered he had a knack for it.

A true familia affair, Rios, his brothers and a cousin launched Rios Wine Company, LLC in 2005. Rios recently chatted with Señorita Vino about the joys of wine and the value of self-confidence.

Señorita Vino: As far as wine consumption, how does the Latina demographic compare to the rest of your customer base?

Rafael Rios: I think they are slowly coming into wine, based on my experience in the tasting room and observing the people who come in. Latinas are probably the minority as far as numbers. Latinos in general are a small percentage.

SV: Why do you think that is?

RR: I think it’s a lack of familiarity. Even as I was growing up working in the vineyards with my parents, I didn’t see a lot of wine. My father would get wine from some of the people he was working for, but the demographic that most of us came from – field workers, construction – it’s not very common. We didn’t really grow up with it.  And it can be intimidating for some people.

SV: What advice would you give Latinas or anyone else who is interested in wine but may feel a level of intimidation?

RR: I think the first thing I’d say is that Latinos and Latinas tend to be pretty confident in themselves. Remember you have that confidence. Use it! Don’t be intimidated. Often in the tasting room the very first thing people say to me after ‘Hello’ is ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about wine.’ There’s noting to be sorry about. I tell them to be confident in their own tastes. They’ll ask, ‘What am I supposed to be tasting?’ And I’ll say I’m not telling you. You taste it and I’ll taste it, and we’ll compare notes. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t like it. Everybody’s palate is different.

SV: What do you like most about being a winemaker?

RR: It’s totally different from everything else I’ve done. I still practice law and I help people with setting up their own labels, licensing and permitting. The thing about wine is that you’re out there during the crush, you’re going over to the caves and tasting the wine and showing it to people. When you meet people over wine, you’re always having a great time. Yes, it’s work, and it has some stresses, but those stresses seem to be outweighed by everything else. With winemaking, people are happy to see you. With law and litigation, no one was happy to see you!

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