Recently I’ve read a number of articles about millennials and the future of wine consumption. A few points that these articles highlighted were 1) the desire for stories and narratives surrounding a wine and 2) desire and excitement for different or unusual wines—the article I was reading used Slovenian Chardonnay and pet-nat wines as the current trends. These trends were criticized because it seemed to represent the triumph of a good marketing—the “story”—over quality.
As a millennial who is also a regular wine drinker, I find articles like this both interesting and amusing. I think sometimes we attribute changes to millennials that I think are probably more due to changes that have swept the wine world over the past few decades. Much of the interest in new, obscure wines simply reflects the fact that 10 or 20 years ago you simply couldn’t find some of these wines in the United States. Today, at least in NYC and the Bay Area, you can find wines from virtually anywhere, and most wine drinkers of all ages want to explore. I’m not the only person who thinks this.
The price of many of the traditional great wines also leads wine drinkers to look elsewhere, but I would argue against the idea that millennials completely disregard the great wines of the past. I love quality Champagne, good Burgundy, Mosel Rieslings, Barbaresco and old school Rioja—just look at other post on this blog. I (like most people) can’t afford to drink them on a regular basis. However, I think it’s still possible (if you live in the right areas) for beginning wine drinkers to try these wines and use them as a benchmark in assessing the wave of new, more affordable alternatives. At least, it’s what I try to do.
Another point was that millennials for the most part don’t care about the 100-point scoring system. I’m not a fan of the point system, not because I don’t think there are measurable quality differences between wines, but because I don’t find them particularly helpful in choosing wines I want to drink. Usually I choose a wine because a) It’s from a producer I’ve heard of or enjoyed in the past b) It’s from a region I enjoy or want to learn more about c) It sounds like something I’d want to drink with dinner. I would argue that the tasting note and yes, sometimes the story, matters more to me in buying wine—but I look for stories of tradition, terroir, and quality.
I find that one of the greatest challenges in terms of millennials and wine is the sheer amount of misinformation that passes as fact. Things like “Riesling is always sweet,” “Australia only makes Shiraz,” and “California makes Champagne” are very pervasive and in the age of stories and narrative, changing these perceptions is very difficult.
At the same time, so many of these conversations occur in a bubble. Most of the casual younger wine drinkers I know go for whatever is cheapest and sweetest. In practice, this means a lot of Apothic Red, Moscato, and Arbor Mist. When I was in college my eating club used to buy wines for Friday night dinners. In an effort to improve the quality of wines, I suggested that we replace some of the cheap, sweet wines with better quality, more interesting wines. This was met by an outcry and a petition signed by 50 people to bring the cheap stuff back. In the end, most people just want to drink.