In a strange confluence of events, the black community and the Orthodox Jewish community have found an item that sells like hotcakes in each community: Bartenura Moscato kosher wine. The wine from Italy in the blue bottle had a huge following among religious Jews starting in the 1980s and 1990s, who comprised 85% to 95% of its consumers.
But the brand took off and became the most famous and most successful Moscato in America due to its allure to the Hip-Hop community. In 2015, Bartenura will sell roughly four million bottles.
In 2005, hip-hop artist Lil’ Kim rapped, “Still over in Brazil sippin Moscato/ you must’ve forgot though/ so I’m a take it back to the block yo … ” Kim’;s mention of Moscato triggered a run in the black community, which prompted bartenura to advertise to the black community. Jay Buschbaum, Bartenura’s E.V.P. of Marketing, said, “We saw rappers were talking about Moscato and identified the opportunity. We bit the bullet and decided to spend a fortune against marketing the product to fans of hip-hop, and the plan worked.”
Other rappers joined the parade; Drake followed in 2009 by emoting, “It’s a celebration/ clap clap bravo / lobster and shrimp / and a glass of Moscato … ”
Harlem resident Sydia Simmons, an advocate for homeless mothers and children, loves the wine. She told Vinepair, “Bartenura’s my drink. I discovered it a few years ago and now it’s the only wine I allow in my house … I always give the wine away at the charity events I run and everyone loves how delicious it is. Lots of my friends even use it as a mixer.”
Simmons loves the taste, but has another reason she prefers it: “Knowing that the Moscato is kosher to me signifies that it’s purer than other wines. I know a lot of people haven’t been involved with making it, and as a pescetarian, I like feeling like my wine is also clean.”
The singular blue bottle also made Bartenura readily identifiable. Buschbaum recalled, “We actually almost killed that blue bottle in the ‘90s; we were running low and there were all of these issues with regulations and costs in terms of keeping the bottle’s blue hue. There was strong advocacy for just switching to the normal and affordable green, but there was nostalgia for keeping it blue, it’s what people remembered from their Seders, I’m glad we did, as now there are several Moscato brands copying it.”
In Crown Heights, where the black community and Orthodox Jews live adjacent to each other, there is a huge billboard advertising Bartenura Blue, appealing to both groups. That’s a far cry from the riots partially instigated by Rev. Al Sharpton that ended with the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum in 1991.
As David Levy of Royal Wine Corporation said in 2011, “Bartenura Moscato has been around for about 20 years now, we’re the original premium moscato in a blue bottle. While we introduced the product as a kosher wine, at the end of the day, we’re glad people outside of the kosher market have discovered this fantastic wine.”