In a twist winemakers didn't plan but are happy to cash in on, U.S. consumers are going gaga for ordinary age-old sweet muscat varietals, known here by the Italian moniker "moscato."
Industry experts say California growers are keen to respond to the miniboom in the market for moscato wines, which can be from red or white grapes.
They often, but not always, are fortified wines, and can be fruity and even lightly fizzy.
In many countries they are used for dessert wines or for cooking.
But in line with what experts say are Americans' decidedly sweet palates compared to many countries worldwide, moscato wines are consistently sweet indeed.
"Most anecdotal accounts of the Moscato market, particularly among its largest producers indicate that Moscato is experiencing a significant increase in sales and has been for about a year and a half," Tom Wark, with the Specialty Wine Retailers Association (SWRA), told Agence France Presse.
A January Nielsen study found that 2010 Moscato sales in the United States surged by 100.7 percent compared to the previous year.
The growth has baffled some analysts because at the moment, moscato varietals make up just 2.1 percent of total U.S. wine sales.
By sales volume they trail market leaders Chardonnay, also sweet, with a 21.2 percent share; Cabernet Sauvignon, dry, with a 12.2-percent share of the total; moderately dry Merlot at 10.3 percent and moderately dry Pinot Grigio 7.3 percent.
Barefoot vineyards boosted their white moscato sales last year by 3.3 million dollars to 31 million for the year, MarketWatch reported. Sutter Home doubled its white moscato sales for the same period to 37 million dollars.
And Woodbridge, owned by Robert Mondavi, boosted its own sales by 10 times, hitting two million dollars.
What's up with U.S. wine consumers? Some experts say that as sweeter wine lovers, Americans are much likelier to go for the apricot and peach flavors in moscato whites.
Another factor could be that many younger people, far more tuned into social networking recommendations and more likely to try something new, have found something they enjoy.
"I think the reason why Moscato is becoming popular is the same reason why Zinfandel became popular 20 years ago. Because it's sweet," said Bill Easton, winemaker and grower at Terre Rough and Easton wines.
"There is one thing that inexperienced American wine drinkers like: it's sugary," Easton stressed. "Europeans have an acidic palate. American have a sweet palate."
Moscato's lower price-point, though not the lowest, also helps make it accessible to new wine drinkers. Wark says 18-30 year olds are not interested in what their parents may have liked when they pick a wine.
Moscato love has even turned up in pop music lately -- Canadian rapper Drake touts it as honey in a dating game.
In "Do It Now," he sings:
"Lobster and shrimp/
and a glass of moscato/
for the girl who's a student/
and her friend who’s a model."
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