May 302011
 

In California & Texas, Latinos are Moving to Wine; We’re in for Some Exciting New Pairings

The research in California is showing that wine consumption among Latinos has increased dramatically over the past five years – much faster than for non-Latinos. The number of glasses of wine consumed by Hispanics per month climbed by nearly 50 percent between 2005 and 2010, while for non-Hispanics the increase was a more modest 16 percent, according to a study by consumer research firm Experian Simmons. As Latino consumers are uncorking reds and whites, the wine industry is trying to attract more of America’s largest ethnic group. Several winemakers are running media campaigns aimed at Latinos. And the wine trade association in California’s agricultural heartland is focusing its upcoming wine tasting and competition on them.

Part of what’s pushing the increase in consumption is sheer demographics. Hispanics accounted for more than half of the U.S. population increase over the last decade. The other factor: a socioeconomic and cultural shift among the more established Latino generations. More at: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/7585239.html

Research in Texas is showing a similar picture of the increasing number of  Hispanic wine drinkers in the Lone Star state, but Texas wineries are still trying to grapple with how to understand their preferences and find wines to their liking.

Natalia Kolyesnikova, assistant director of the Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute told attendees at this year’s meeting of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association in March that the institute last year conducted a preliminary study, convening three focus groups to answer questions about how, when, where and why Hispanic consumers drink wine. The responses were diverse, suggesting that the state’s Hispanic population IS NOT  a monolith. Younger drinkers like Spanish-language labels and older drinkers say the language on the label doesn’t matter. Spanish-speaking drinkers are interested in wine’s health benefits while most English speakers don’t care. See more on how Latinos are evolving the Texas wine experience of the future, at: http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/cityofate/2011/03/texas_wineries_ask_what_do_his.php

I attended Natalia’s presentation and it really made me think a bit about a wine and food experience of my own.

Not being Hispanic myself, but married to a woman of Mexican ancestry, we eat our share of Mexican and TexMex foods. I’ve had many chances to try my hand at pairing wine with this cuisine and its not straightforward. I can say that these wine pairing have been at  sometimes….challenging. However, sometimes they can be the most memorable wine and food pairings.Why? Well, because pairing wine with different types of cuisine challenges us to think outside the box of the established paradigm of wine and food pairing. You know…Red wine with red meat, and white wine with white meat.

I once had a plate of buffalo enchiladas with a fair amount of chili pepper heat. They were served at Ross Burtwell’s Cabernet Grill in Fredericksburg, Texas. [By the way, the Cabernet Grill is a good place to try your hand at food and Texas wine pairing as Chef Burtwell has what is likely the most extensive Texas wine list in the state, and therefore the whole world!] I tried several red wines with the enchiladas, all of which were poor matches, but dictated by the old adage “red meat…red wine.”  Almost as a last resort, I tried a wine that was as far out of the box as you are likely to get in a red meat pairing. It was Sister Creek Vineyards Muscat Canelli, a highly aromatic white wine that’s semi-sweet with just a hint of sparkle from carbonation at bottling. The Muscat out performed all of the red wines when it came to drinkability along side of the beef enchiladas. It melded with the food especially the combination of the wine’s floral aromatics and sweetness with the spicy heat of the chili peppers in the food.

This experience showed me that with the increasing Hispanic presence in our American culture, the wine and food experience needs to go with the flow, too. We can’t be fixed on our old ideas and “rules”. We need to embrace the new, bring the old, and create a fusion of culture and cuisine.

Gosh, hopefully we will be in for some exciting food and wine times if restauranteurs and especially their distributors take notice and get a little creative. I’m tired (and aren’t you, too) of going to Asian restaurants that offer only Chardonnay and Cabernet on their wine lists (possibly the two worst wines to pair with Asian foods) and Mexican restaurants that offer no serious wine selection, at all.

What’s been your experience with and expectations for food and wine pairing in our increasingly diverse American  foodie culture?

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