According to a 2014 study by the Wine Market Council, 29 percent of the wine drinking population, is comprised of Millennials. Millennials (Generation Y) range from 21 to 34 years old. Based on wine consumption in 2014, 59 percent of high-frequency Millennial wine drinkers are drinking more wine compared to 2013.
Millennials are far more adventurous when it comes to their wine and frequently purchase unfamiliar wine brands. Because of social media, Millennials don’t need to rely on the expertise of sommeliers to learn about wine. These tech savvy wine drinkers have information at their digital fingertips.
Unlike baby boomers, Millennials grew up with the internet and prefer to use the internet to conduct their research. They chat with their wine drinker friends on Facebook and read wine reviews by peers. Millennials are an “on-the-go generation” so it makes sense for wine marketers to create online buzz and target them through social media channels.
There is a consensus among Millennials that wine drinking is all about the first-hand, interactive experience. Laura Edgington, a 29-year-old marketing manager from Michigan, started enjoying good wine when she became interested in winery tours and supported local wineries.
“Millennials are looking for an experience more than anything. That is why wineries are so popular. We want to see the crew who makes our wine, learn about the ingredients they use, and experience the winery’s culture.”
34-year-old Joe Vargo grew up in Northeast Ohio’s Grand River Valley, a prominent wine region that’s been in production since the end of Prohibition. Wine was an everyday part of his life, and his parents even allowed him to have a few sips of wine on special occasions.
As a wine lover and marketing specialist in the tourism industry, Joe agrees that his generation seeks a genuine experience related to wine.
“Wine has this idea of terroir built into its mythology. You are tasting a place. What better way to taste a place than to do so when you’re in that place? Millennials are motivated both by authenticity and doing things our friends haven’t done,” Joe shared. “Wine gives you both of those things and it’s a pleasure to drink. I think Millennials are less intimidated by wine than previous generations. We grew up with wine in a box, and we don’t see it as fancy.”
Millennials enjoy a wide variety of wines. Emily Forsha, a 33-year-old marketer from Eugene, Oregon, prefers to drink dry, bold reds. Joe enjoys European wines such as white Vinho Verde from Portugal and red Spanish Tempranillo. Laura is a fan of sweet or less dry reds and enjoys visiting her local Traverse City wineries such as St. Julian’s, Blustone Vineyards and Lawton Ridge Winery.
Dr. Liz Thach, Korbel Professor of Wine & Business Management at Sonoma State University, surveyed the wine drinking habits of Millennials. She found that the most common wine experience for Millennials included special occasions and meals at formal restaurants and wine tastings. Millennials love to socialize with friends and family over a glass of wine.
“We have a two-year-old daughter, so we don’t go out as much as we used to, but when we have a date night it generally starts with cocktails, and then we’ll have wine with dinner,” Joe said.
“I like going to tasting rooms with friends and coworkers, or drinking wine at work or social events,” said Emily.
Millennials are “immediate” wine drinkers and don’t wait around for their wines to age. They’re all about the here and now when it comes to wine, and don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy a good bottle of wine. Laura likes to drink Barefoot Wine because “for the price it’s a quality wine.” Joe’s average price point for wine that he drinks at home is $5 to $6 per bottle.
Compared to older generations, Millennials have dropped the pretense and stuffiness associated with buying and drinking wine. The term “wine snob” does not apply to Millennial wine drinkers. As a result, there is huge opportunity for the wine industry. They can now easily market and sell the wine drinking “experience” to the 62 million Millennials who live in America.