Gazing Into the Crystal Ball
Predicting the future is hardly an exact science. After all, 20 years ago, who could have foreseen that we’d all be walking around with tiny computers in our pockets with more processing power than the bulky desktop computers that filled our offices?
But several people have given it a try, and the consensus on the future of wine drinking in the U.S. makes for interesting reading. There’s little question that the future belongs to the “Millennial” generation, defined as Americans between the ages of 25 and 34. They’re a big group—some 76 million strong—that spends around $172 billion per year. They also like wine. Sixty-six percent drink wine regularly, compared with only 26 percent of the U.S. population at large, according to a Wine Markets Council study.
A couple of oft-repeated generalizations about Millennials stand out. One, they have eclectic tastes, both in wine varietals and where those varietals are produced. Sweeter whites like Moscato are increasingly popular with this group, as are New World wines, especially imports. They also like bubbles. According the wine industry trade publication Impact, 21 percent of sparkling wine drinkers are Millennials.
Other wines that have seen impressive retail sales growth over recent years are rosés and red blends, the latter suggesting that these new wine drinkers are less tied to the Cabernet-Merlot-Pinot Noir status quo.
A second generalization is that Millennials are accustomed to communicating via social media and using websites like Yelp and Angie’s List, crowd-sourcing wine recommendations rather than relying on the words of a handful of “experts.” Facebook and other social media will become increasingly important to promote wines and gain brand recognition.
Millennials are also more environmentally conscious, so expect wineries pursuing this generation to “bottle” more wine in boxes, Tetrapaks and other “green”-tinged packages.