The Wine-Buying Habits of Millennials

Apr 24, 2017

I can confidently say that every one of my friends likes wine, to some degree. If they don’t like it, they love it. My friends and family have a wide array of preferences. Some love sweet, some love dry. Some love red, some white or rosé. Then I have a fair amount of friends who, like me, love anything that bubbles. In fact, I cannot recall a time when my friends and I have gotten together that there wasn’t at least one bottle of bubbly present. Second to bubbly, dry rosé is a common find among our group.

I recently read an article from Meininger’s Wine Business International titled “Is the Millennial market all it’s cracked up to be?” In the article, Felicity Carter discusses the buying patterns of the highly-sought-after millennial target market. This covers consumers born between 1980 and 1995. I, myself, am a millennial, so articles like this always grab my attention. Also, because the Trail’s promotions committee has had many discussions about how to capture the attention of the millennial market. That conversation always entails a debate on whether they’re the right market to be targeting, given their general lack of expendable income.

Among my friends, the desire to drink wine is evident. I cannot, however, say that they have a particular brand loyalty.  We certainly have a Finger Lakes preference, but it’s not always an option if we are gathering at one of their homes in Boston, Nashville or Queens. In that case, purchasing decisions are made on a more whimsical basis, like the color of the bottle, the design of the label and inevitably, price (we’re all laden with significant student loan payments).

The article references Bob McMillan, founder of the Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division. According to studies, McMillan reports that baby boomers are still dominating the wine market. Millennials, however, are greatly affecting the lower-priced wine segments, wine between $8 and $14. McMillan credits millennials with frugality, something I can relate to. The good news on this is that I can recommend an entire list of CLWT wines that fit this profile, both delicious and affordable.

The article makes mention of younger consumers “approaching wine in a discovery phase” in which they talk about it, research it, share it and experiment. If I look back on my friends’ Instagram feeds from the last few months, it’s evident that here is true value in impressing the younger consumer who is likely to share their experience via social media. After all, world of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. We’re human and we trust the recommendations of our comrades.

My favorite quote of McMillan’s is “…wine as a subject is daunting and the younger generation is impatient. They want what they want, when they want it and it’s confusing…”

There’s mention of how younger wine consumers often prefer to drink blends, or wines made with a combination of various grape juices because they come across as less complicated. Wines that are tied to specific varietals, such as Chardonnay or Merlot, are confusing to a consumer who may not know if that particular varietal is typically sweet or dry. Then, add in vintages, and it grows more complicated. The customer may fear choosing a wine from a “bad year”. So, we’re seeing many more red blends, or table wines that have neither varietal nor vintage associated with them fly off the shelves.

It is growing more and more evident that consumer demand is changing as boomers buy less wine and millennials buy more. McMillan claims “Today (boomers) are being replaced one-for-one by the frugal young millennials”. So, it’s my prediction that as millennials become the largest consumer market segment, that they (we) are certainly worth targeting.

Cassandra Harrington is the executive director of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, America’s First. Taste a bit of history. To learn more, visit cayugawinetrail.com.