News & views
The truth about millennial wine drinkers
Do millennials really scorn wine? Or only pour it to take pictures of it on instagram? Nathalie Gardiner, a member of Generation Y herself, examines a few prejudices
Recently I’ve seen a lot of hate within the wine community towards the millennial generation. As an ardent 22-year-old member of the community, this got an immediate rise out of me. And it got me thinking: why on earth do those born before 1981 have 'boring drinking habits"?
It’s always easy to begin an article on us pesky Gen Y kids with the smartphones and the internet and all of this new-fangled technology. Millennials perpetually get mocked for our obsessive use of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and my personal favourite, ‘never getting off that phone’ when checking the time.
Firstly, I have met plenty of people born before the millennial gen cut-off who use social media more than some of us combined. And, is it not the case that the majority of bars, restaurants and even producers/brands get pretty much unlimited free advertising from these social media sites?
I know for sure that when I was in London, I went pretty much anywhere that I spotted on my ‘Discovery’ page on Instagram, whether it be ‘Spoons or Swift. So yes, shun us for supporting the economy if you must. But we are doing the leg-work of several overpaid middle-aged Mad Men, only on a smaller scale and for one very particular industry. It still counts.
Not to mention that if you look at ‘#wine’ on any social media search, the place is swarming with younger faces enjoying wines that are considered classics together with new up-and-coming producers. Even within my Wine and Management Diploma course, which focusses mostly on French wine, you will find us looking for wines that wouldn’t even cross the minds of some Boomers and Gen Xers. I think the millennial drinking habit in terms of variety is a non-issue.
Millenials are more adventurous
Bear in mind that we are diversifying the market, specifically in the wine industry, even though we are spending less overall. 22-37 year olds have been drinking different types of grapes from stranger places than your simple “I like white wine" and "I hate chardonnay but I love Chablis” consumer (the same consumer many of us hospitality types know better than our own mother or, indeed, could well be our own mother).
You may find us at the table round the corner from these types more often, though, since it’s been found that millennials go out to eat more than previous generations, even though we have no money (I’m telling you, NONE). And what we buy in terms of wine, we generally spend more on per bottle, even if we don’t spend as much overall.
Wine doesn’t look to be top of the league tables for Gen Y drinks yet, but it is gaining momentum. If we take a look at rosé, which has only been increasing in popularity by about 5,000% since the turn of the millennium, it has been thrust into stratospheric sales by fantastic marketing, diversity of product (sweet, dry, sparkling, you name it), and, honestly, just better winemaking. Rosé is not only great for sipping on a terrace in the high summer of continental Europe, but all year round, and it’s surprisingly easy to pair with food
Social media has, of course, contributed to the boom. In 2015, one of my favourite examples of fragile masculinity reared its ugly head: #brosé. Rosé for men. Need I say more? I’m shivering in disgust. But it was, tragically, a useful tool in bumping up those sales.
Millenials 'moderate their alcohol intake'
When I looked at articles about the impact millennials have on the alcohol industry, I found myself disagreeing with most things that were being claimed. I’m not sure if I have a genetic predisposition to the classic USA stereotype of frat and sorority house style (and quantity) of drinking, or maybe I’m just a bit more keen on a bev than your typical millennial, but if “three out of four millennial drinkers say they limit how much they drink most of the time they go out and 38% say they moderate their alcohol intake every single time”, according to Forbes, then I just don’t want to be part of this generation anymore.
Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh. It’s commonly known that drinking until one’s head is planted in the neighbours vegetable garden at 4am isn’t a pretty or sensible option any more. Young people are being healthy! Shame on them for taking better care of their liver! An era of moderation shouldn’t be too much of an issue, especially if we keep buying quality. Not only wine, but craft beer sales have rocketed in comparison to your big brand lagers, and spirits have begun tailoring products to the millennial market to keep up with us being, well, millennials.
I’m not saying older generations are totally wrong when they stereotype us as brattish, self-entitled, impatient, narcissistic social-justice snowflakes (definitely rings a bell with me), but as with every single generation before, back to the beginning of wine, things change. Industries, technologies, tastes, everything about the natural development of society will change how every good or service is perceived.
So what if we drink less but better and more diversely? Gen Y is giving rightful praise to winemakers who deserve it, or may not have been considered before. The market naturally chops and changes. We are doing our best. Especially British millennials like myself, who I can tell you without a doubt will be bumping up the consumption statistics around the end of March, so please don’t worry - our drinking habits could be the only thing that will be of any entertainment soon.
Nathalie Gardiner is a trained sommelier and is currently studying for a Wine and Management Diploma at the Cordon Bleu Institute in Paris.
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