Sweet, sparkly Moscato pops with celebrity props

Fri Dec 30, 2011 12:19pm EST
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By Lisa Baertlein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hip-hop artists sing about it, a famous housewife sells it and the wine world is abuzz about Moscato, a sweet, lightly fizzy drink that is the biggest thing to hit the wine business since White Zinfandel.

Hip-hop artist Kanye West helped elevate Moscato's profile, serving Saracco Moscato d'Asti at a party in 2005 and giving the brand props in a remix of the song "Make Her Feel Good".

Rapper Lil' Kim and other performers have also sung about the low-alcohol drink, which is not the first beverage to get a boost from hip-hop stars but one of the most accessible, with an average price of less than $10 per bottle.

"Moscato is definitely coming on strong, especially in the urban market," said wine consultant and columnist Lisa Carley.

She added that sweet red wine, still and sparkling, also has become a big seller throughout the middle of the country.

"The rise of Moscato and sweet red wines seems to indicate that Americans are getting more comfortable with wine in general. Because of that, they are drinking what they like as opposed to what they 'should' drink," Carley said.

A year-over-year comparison shows sales of the up-and-coming wine topping $300 million for 2011, more than triple what they were for 2009. The varietal now accounts for around three percent of total table wine sales, up from one percent in 2009, according to information and measurement company Nielsen.