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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wine for the Millenials

Now that the Millennials are mostly in their 20's (drinking age) you see marketing directed towards them and wine is no exception. The problem with California premium wine ($20+) is it's too expensive for most people in that age group.

Also, a culture brought up on Pepsi doesn't easily move to dry wines with acids and tannins. This is why we've seen the popularity of White Zinfandel, oaky, buttery Chardonnays, and more recently the soft, fruity Zinfandel (and Pinots and Cabs).  Most of these are still out of the price range of a 25 year old except for the White Zin but that is way past being trendy. Somewhat sweet Pinot Gris is fashionable right now but it's a girly wine apparently.

One wine that's shot up in popularity among the younger and new-to-wine crowd is Muscat in various new forms (see earlier blog post on Muscat).

Those who are big into wine (aka wine geeks) are always on the lookout for The Next Big Thing. This may be some new, trendy and expensive Napa Cabernet (the next cult wine) or maybe trying to decide if Tempranillo or Viognier will ever really catch on in the U.S. But The Next Big Thing will make the wine snobs gasp, shriek and choke on their cigar smoke because it'll be cheap, somewhat sweet red wines.

If the 20-somethings can find an $8 bottle of wine with a youthful looking label and the sweetness to appeal to their cola-drinking history then it'll take off.  I don't mean really sweet dessert wines; these will be sipping wines--something for the trendy wine bars to sell even. It's not Boone's Farm or Thunderbird and it's not Dow's Port--it's in between in quality and price.  That will be the trick--making a decent quality and affordable slightly sweet wine. I expect there's enough worthy red wine grapes in the Central Valley of California to make this work.

It won't be just the 20-somethings either as I can't count the number of times in a tasting room when I've been asked by a middle-aged Midwesterner if we have any sweet red wines. And the answer has always been "no."  Non-dessert style sweet reds have always been looked down upon as cheap and crappy bulk wines--just as rosé had the same reputation until recently.

The wine biz admits to White Zin being sweet and probably will too with Pinot Gris.  They never fessed up to sweet Chardonnays like the one that made Kendall-Jackson rich.  When these sweeter reds come they will have to admit to leaving sugar in the wine to attract the right consumers. Or maybe they'll call them "off dry" or "fruity."

Wine marketers in Sonoma County and other premium wine areas have been going after this age group for awhile with social media and in other ways.  The issue has been it's still consumers in their 40s and 50s that buy $20-up wine. New wine drinkers don't generally understand dry beverages.  That's not new as buttery Chardonnay and White Zinfandel often have been "starter" wines for many. But if you want the 20-somethings to become steady buyers you need a line of cheaper, softer, sweeter wines. Or you can wait for Gallo to take over that market, too.
This one's got the name B LOVELY
the label FLOWERS and BEES
the price UNDER $10
Image from