What Ever Happened to Wine Coolers?

The Buggles ushered in the age of music videos with a song called “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The song’s music video was the first such video played on MTV in the United States on the first day of August in 1981.

I’m no songwriter, but if I were, I’d pen a Buggles-inspired tune called “Moscato Killed the Wine Cooler.”

I have no actual evidence to support the claim made by the song’s name. But having lived through the era of Seagram’s Coolers and its main competitor, Bartles & Jaymes, it makes sense to me that a superior sweet drink (Moscato) would supplant another sweet drink (wine coolers) at some point.

Wine coolers certainly enjoyed a good run for a number of years. At one time, Seagram’s Coolers was the title sponsor of bowling’s most prestigious pro tournament, the U.S. Open. Bartles & Jaymes countered that marketing strategy by creating two down-home characters you’d love to have in your home, and featuring them in their commercials.

But as Chardonnay’s popularity began to explode, the appeal of wine coolers started to wane. Many wine cooler drinkers wanted to “move up,” but they weren’t quite ready to sacrifice the sweetness that was a big part of a wine cooler’s appeal. So, they gravitated to the sweet wines that populated supermarket shelves: white Zinfandel and Moscato.

Today, Moscato has become a star of the nightclub scene, and a “wine cooler” is more likely to be thought of as a refrigerator for wine bottles than as a beverage.

It should be noted that beverage makers haven’t given up on the “wine cooler” category altogether. The definition is being expanded, and the beverages being offered — just as likely to be in a can as in a bottle — are being marketed as “artisanal.” I’ve tried a few, and they are head-and-shoulders above the wine coolers of the 1980s in quality — at least to my palate.

But when I want some sweetness in my adult beverage, I’m still going to opt for a nice Moscato.

In fact, I think I’ll pour a glass now while I work on my song lyrics…

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Posted in Wine Buzz

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