The Rising Tide of Millennials and Wine
Not since the baby boomers has there been so much consumer buzz about a generation. Born roughly between 1980 and 2000, numbering about 92 million, millennials are the largest generation in history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Wine Market Council projects these 16- to 36-year-olds to be the next substantial consumer segment for the wine industry, and their impact is already being felt. Millennials are generally categorized as adventurous, looking for authenticity and on the hunt for good deals.
Blaine East, owner of Paradise Wine in Naples, says that quest gave birth to a new label from the esteemed Fisher Vineyards in Napa Valley: Unity. As the younger generation of the Fisher family came into the business, they wanted to make quality wines that their peers could afford, and they’ve hit the nail on the he ad.
You can smell the fruit in the 2013 Unity cabernet sauvignon from the time it comes out of the bottle until it hits the glass. With moderate tannins and some herbal notes, this wine is warm and juicy with dark cherry, plums and cocoa. Coming in at under $50, it’s a good value and one that could sit for a few years.
Lisa Peju, brand ambassador for Peju Wines in California, has a similar story. As kids, she and her sister began experimenting at the dinner table blending the family’s red and white wines together for something softer and more approachable to suit their younger palates. Eventually bottled as Tess, the result was, as Peju describes it, “like a heavy rosé or a refreshing red wine that is lighter in style … no one makes anything like it.”
In the $20 range, the current release is a silky blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, cabernet franc, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and petit verdot. It smells floral and is full of
fresh strawberry and raspberry flavors, a perfect summer wine.
Tess was just the beginning for the sisters who have acquired a new winery in Carneros, California, and will be making what Peju calls, “some fun blends,” adding, “The younger generation is going away from that overly extracted wine.”
How does Southwest Florida, a market infamous for its number of retirees, fit into the millennial-versus-wine picture?
Liset Zelaya, sommelier at Sea Salt in Naples, says, “Our typical clients tend to be a little older, but their children are coming in with them, and they are the ones we see looking for something different, something more value oriented, more natural, what’s new and hot on the market.”
From the retail perspective, East sees his older customers as the ones who are encouraging the younger generation to try wine. He says, “The sons and daughters of parents come in and they all say, ‘Let’s share a bottle together.’ It’s a way to connect.”
Millennials are all about connection. They use Facebook for sharing the wine they drink, excited to be the first to post a cool find. Peju says, “I’ve noticed younger generations want what their friends are having more than what a critic or one person says. They want to be able to tell their friends I’ve had this, and say I found this first.”
And one more thing, she adds, “They want things their parents didn’t because it’s way cooler automatically.” Michelle Renzulli, 26, from Estero echoes that sentiment, saying, “I don’t want the chardonnay my mom drinks.”
But when this collective group does want a chardonnay, they want one with a great story, using the buzzwords “genuine” and “authentic.” They also tend to support brands that have a cause behind them or whose philosophies align with their own.
So far, millennials aren’t changing the way Emile Mourad, owner of the Grape Base in Estero, buys his wines. He speculates their impact may be more pronounced in bigger cities, a trend (like many) in which Southwest Florida is lagging behind.
As for the restaurant scene, Zelaya says there has indeed been a bit of a shift in her buying. Instead of a heavy concentration of more traditional grapes and regions, she is bringing in more obscure varietals from lesser-known areas, to fit her ever-changing menu. “It’s exciting for me because it gives me the opportunity to keep trying and searching out new producers,” she says. “It’s fun for me to work with them [millennials].”
Not a millennial and wondering how this will affect you? The well-established, traditional wineries won’t be going anywhere, but the doors will be opening for smaller producers to get their wines to you through boutique distributors. The demand will bring more affordable and eclectic selections to the doorsteps of wine lovers who have been craving more without traveling for the discovery—a win-win for everyone. Cheers!
MILLENNIALS USE FACEBOOK FOR SHARING THE WINE THEY DRINK, EXCITED TO BE THE FIRST TO POST A COOL FIND.
Sisters Lisa and Ariana Peju are creating wines, bottled under the Tess label, with millennials in mind.
Blaine East, owner of P aradise Wine in Naples, carries the new U nity wines, designed to be more affordable and appeal to a younger generation.