Did you know 29% of the 39 million regular wine drinkers in the U.S. are under 34?
Wine insiders have been saying for the past few years that Millenials–those 21-34 year-olds like myself– are shaking up the wine industry and smart wineries should take note.
So what should wineries do to please this fickle demographic?
1) Get online, duh.
In Napa, where a quarter of vineyard visitors are 24-35, the some wineries are leaning on social media to tap folks like me. The Napa Valley Vintners Assn. hosts Taste and Tweet events that attract a younger crowd, said Patsy McGaughy. It’s true, I do find out a lot about wine through Twitter, and the internet in general, so I can see this working. The Association also encouraged visitors this summer to share their photos on Instagram with a pre-defined hashtag to win a prize. I’d also recommend posting on reddit, a Q & A style forum where users can “upvote” the best posts. I see a lot of wine enthusiasts on there, but few actual wine brands joining into the community.
2) Study says: Millenials are shallow
Yes, many of us care about labels. We probably shouldn’t, but sorry that’s not going to change.
We’re the generation that doesn’t just pay attention to other brands, we brand ourselves. We curate our lives on Facebook and Instagram (#mylifeisperfect), so we tend to pick up a bottle of wine if it looks cool, especially since we’re probably going to bring it to a party.
According to a 2012 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo study, Millenials prefer wine labels that are “brightly colored, less traditional and more graphically focused.”
But trying to cater to us can go wrong. I would never buy TXT Cellars’ OMG!!! Chardonnay or WTF!!! Pinot Noir. It’s trying too hard. They’re wines my dad would buy me–if he bought me wine, which he doesn’t– because it would be something he thinks I would think is cool. It’s like seeing your parents on Facebook. If looks weird.
3) Be different
According to the Wine Market Council, 89% of 26 to 34 year-olds frequently purchase wine from an unknown brand. That’s because many of us, including myself, like to try new things.
“Millennials have reached legal drinking age at a time when more wines from more countries are available than ever before. So it’s not surprising that their tastes are adventurous as they explore and form their own preferences,” said David McIntyre, in a Washington Post food column this week about a 27-year-old and a 25-year-old who set up a pop-up wine bar in a parking lot in DC.
Peter Eastlake at Vintage Berkeley is benefitting from that trend at his wine store near University of California Berkeley. He’s been buying and selling wine for a long time and he’s noticed that rather than going for the traditional Cabernet Sauvignon, his customers want something different. They’re willing to explore, he said.
For example, I bought a fizzy wine from Slovenia described as weird, but great, at his store.
Blends are good, too. I picked two up at Area 5.1 Winery when I was in Santa Barbara because they were delicious and unique and I knew I’d never find them again unless I went back.
When I was in college it was $2 buck chuck all the time. Now, I try to mostly keep my wine purchases under $20. Many of my friends though won’t buy a bottle of wine over $10. If I’m at a boutique winery, I bump it up to around $20-$25 because I know I’m paying for the small-scale production, the experience of being at the winery, etc.
Wineries take note: I cringe when I see $15 tastings. Even with $10 tastings, my friends and I will share a glass to split the price. Drop your tastings to $5 and you’ll make up for the reduction in price with an increase in traffic. And if you can’t drop your tasting price all the time, make it an event, a happy hour of sorts, and reduce it during certain times.