Millennials and Wine

There’s lots of buzz about the newest wine drinkers, Millennials (aged 22 to 37 as defined by Technomic, Inc.). Numbering approximately 68 million, their wine preferences and wine drinking habits are having and will continue to have a major impact on the wine industry and restaurant wine programs.

Technomic’s recently released “Special Trends in Adult Beverages Report: Millennial Consumer Insights” finds that the millennial generation is embracing wine earlier and drinking more wine than preceding generations. Ryan Valentine, Director of Beverage, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, hq Columbus, OH, concurs. “The Millennial generation started drinking wine way earlier than other generations. They’re not just drinking beer in college, they’re engaged with wine and it is a beverage they enjoy.” Some expert tips on how to appeal to this enthusiastic audience:

MILLENNIALS LIKE TO EXPERIMENT Paul Grieco, Co-Owner/GM, Hearth and Terroir, New York, NY, says, “Millennials aren’t intimidated by wine. They’re not coming to wine-drinking armed with the baggage their parents had – they’re very open-minded. What they want is a story behind the wines they drink and to explore.” Rajat Parr, Wine Director, Mina Group, hq San Francisco, CA, adds that “Millennials drink everything and they want to have fun with wine. To give them a chance to taste the more elusive wines, we use preservation systems – Free Flow Wines and Coravins – in some locations.” John Ragan, Wine Director, Union Square Hospitality Group, hq New York, NY, agrees. “Millennials’ heightened sense of curiosity is palpable. They want to discover new wines; they don’t want to drink the same wines over and over.” For example, John says that he sometimes puts a wine on the glass menu that has an unpronounceable name from a strange place, and he’s pleasantly surprised at how many order it. “It’s all about exploration with this generation.”

Millennials have reached drinking age when there are more wines from more countries available than ever before – and more varietals. John cites the rediscovery of Italy’s indigenous grapes. “All over Italy there are thousands of these varieties that I had no idea existed. It’s an exciting time to be discovering wines.” To appeal to curious wine drinkers, Paul says that their wine programs are based on wines that are off the beaten path – pinot noirs from Brazil, rieslings from Mongolia, etc. “With the constant desire for change and newness and continual turnover, we buy more wines now but fewer bottles of each.”

WINES BY THE GLASS ARE VERY POPULAR WITH MILLENNIALS June Rodil, Director of Operations, Qui, Austin, TX, reports, ”Millennials are switching it up, having different wines by the glass throughout their meal and doing a lot of pairings.” Rajat says he also notices this generation mixing it up throughout a meal, having a red, then a white, going back to red. Ryan advises, “Have a diverse wine list and some depth in your by-the-glass selection so Millennials can shop and have fun.

MILLENNIALS LIKE TO LEARN AND WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE STORY BEHIND A WINE According to Bobby Stuckey, MS, Owner, Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, CO, “Millennials like to be presented with numerous choices and then want to make their own discoveries about wine.” He adds that many are interested in the natural wine movement (wines that are made with a minimum of manipulation and additives). When Millennials are looking at the wine list at Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, Ryan says he notices them grab their smartphones to look up a wine’s score and get information to back up their decision on what to order. “The biggest trend is that Millennials use information better,” he says. “They’ll watch a show online about wine and become interested in trying those wines.” Rajat adds that numerous wine apps are available now (such as Hello Vino) that guests use when ordering wine, as well as to track their wine-drinking history.

MONEY ISN’T (MUCH) OF AN OBJECT BUT VALUE IS Paul says that Millennials’ wine spending is as varied as that of other age brackets, and that “some don’t even blink at $100 bottles.” Rajat agrees. “Value is paramount and they’re looking for it at every price point, whether it’s $20 or $400.” He adds that this generation uses technology to research wine pricing too. “They know in a heartbeat if your wines are well priced because they’re checking them on their smartphones while they’re in your restaurant.”

WINE MARKETING IS DIGITAL AND SOCIAL “Social media is a fantastic tool for Millennial wine drinkers,” John says. “We are using Twitter to alert our followers, many of whom are Millennials, when we’re opening a bottle from an auction or special allotment. In the past if we had a special bottle, we’d wait for the right person to come; now we tweet about it.” Not only that, he observes guests photographing labels of wines and sharing them instantly with friends via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

May 2014
Restaurant Briefing
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