Dawn of the Living Millennials   Leave a comment

The history of winemaking and drinking in America is pretty well documented.  But what of the future?  What are our children going to be drinking?  

Being a Boomer (a “Late Boomer” so to speak) does not qualify me to tell you what our children are going to do.  In fact, being the father of a Millennial, and all the guesswork entailed by that precarious distinction, is likely to disqualify me altogether.  But that has not stopped me from speculating in the past and it won’t stop me now. 

Before we go on, let us define in general terms who we are and who they are:

                • The Greatest Generation–those born before 1928
                • The Silent Generation–those born from 1928-1945
                • Baby Boomers–those born from 1946-1964
                • Generation X–those born from 1965-1980
                • Millennials–those born from 1981-2000

According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials are confident, connected and open to change.  One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Millennials is their use of technology.  They are more connected with gadgets and social network profiles than any generation before.  Demographically, they are also the most diverse of generational groups in American history– whites making up only 60% of the grouping and Latino and Asian populations surging to 32% from the 21% in the generation of Baby Boomers.  They are also apt to be more highly educated than their elders.  Interestingly, although this group places a high value on marriage and parenthood, they are less likely to be married than their predecessors were at the same age.  Maybe that’s because they spend too much time playing video games.  But this is a generation that has more time to work out at the gym– perhaps because they are not preoccupied with keeping spouses in a state of marital contentment while they raise children of their own. 

So a healthy lifestyle is pretty important to them.  And with time to burn, they can hit the bars after working out.  It seems only natural that wine could be part of that healthier lifestyle.

What are they drinking now?  I suspect the same stuff we all drank in our younger age: sweeter, less complicated plonk: semi-sweet white wines and big fruit driven red wines.  And since they don’t yet have a whole lot of money to spend on wine, the sub-$15 wines are going to thrive– especially on those nights when it’s just them, the PlayStation and their joy-sticks (they still use those, right?). 

Before they ever taste an ultra-premium wine, they will discover that one doesn’t need to spend a ton of money on such nectar to derive great enjoyment from wine.  And with fewer employment prospects for college graduates in recent years, they will continue to look for value in the short to mid-term.  Whether that will change in the long-term is anyone’s guess.  What I can say is that when I was their age, the quality and variety of wines available, let alone the information about these wines, was simply not as great as it is today. 

One tool that the Millennials have to mine for that value is technology: the internet with its ability to locate and condense information about wine will help this generation acquire the best quality wines for the money.  Intertwined with that notion is that the internet will also provide an ability to identify the lowest cost providers.  Those wine merchants, who tap into the Millennials’ aptitude for technology will thrive, even if the margins are thin.  

As the first members of this generation reach the age of 30, we know that their palates will evolve.  Will they continue to support the growth of wine consumption in America?  Of course they will.  What seems clear is that they are much more catholic in their tastes than prior generations.  Why should their wine habits depart from this trend?  This generation of locavores is coming of age in a land of hand-crafted brews with a diversity of cuisines and cultures that is no longer confined to urban centers.  It would, therefore, seem inevitable that those who do develop a taste for wine would follow the precepts of localized diversity, at least to start– “Look at what I found in my own back yard!”  I am optimistic that they will develop a love for wines made by smaller producers that deliver good value.  And with good wine being produced throughout our country, it would not be surprising to see them seeking out what is most local first.  

But being perhaps the most diverse generation in America history, can we expect them to confine themselves to only what is local?  Probably not.  And when they start to reach out to the rest of the world, they will look to smaller producers, seeking out the best of them. 

While there is much that we can teach these youngsters, there are a few things that we (especially Boomers) can learn from them as well.  The use of technology, for starters.  They are using technology to reach out to the greater world.  In a sense, the world is getting smaller as they expand the reach of what is in their backyards.

The globalization of the boutique winery movement started a few years ago.  I believe that Millennials as wine producers, merchants and consumers will take this to places we can’t even imagine. 

Must... learn... to... spit... PRO--PER--LY...

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Posted September 21, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

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