At the end of a long day, Quinn Conway, a 22-year-old student at Southern Methodist University, comes home and reaches for his favorite bottle of red wine. As the drink hits the cool glass and he hears the pouring of his beloved Malbec, a sense of ease and relaxation washes over him.
“I’ve always liked wine, but I never really started loving it until this past year or so. Now one of my favorite things to do when I come home from a stressful day at work or school is have a few glasses of wine,” said Conway.
Conway is not alone with his love for wine in his generation. Data indicates that Millennials accounted for 42 percent of the wine that was consumed in 2015, as compared to 30 percent for Baby Boomers and 20 percent for Gen-Xers, according to a study done by Wine Market Council.
Millennial Drinking Behavior
Reasons behind their consumption percentage being higher than other generations are due to their drinking frequency and the amount of wine they consume per occasion.
“I’ve always enjoyed wine and would say I prefer it over other alcohol choices. I usually drink wine once a week or more and when I do I’ll probably have at least two glasses,” said Morgan Shade, a 21-year-old student at The University of Texas at Dallas.
Between 2005 and 2010, there was a surge in high frequency wine drinkers, those who drink more than once a week, from 7.9 percent to 13.9 percent of the legal drinking age population, driven by Millennials. This also accounted for a decline in the occasional wine drinker population, those who drink once a week or less, from 26.2 percent to 20.3 percent, according to research done by John Gillespie, President of Wine Market Council.
“For Millennials, wine has become less of a special occasion beverage and more of an everyday beverage. They could be drinking it while they’re eating popcorn and watching TV or they could be drinking it to celebrate a big event,” said Sarah Anderson, the Marketing Director at Oliver Winery in Indiana.
Not only are Millennials drinking more often, but they are also drinking higher amounts. On average, Millennials drink 3.1 glasses per occasion, compared to the average 2.4 glasses for Gen-Xers and 1.9 glasses for Baby Boomers, according to a study done by Wine Market Council.
“I’ve never really seen the point in just having one glass of wine. If I decide I’m going to drink, then I’m definitely going to have two or more glasses,” said Sarah Wolf, a 22-year-old from Louisville, Kentucky.
But Millennials are not just drinking more; they are also drinking a wider variety of wines.
A More Adventurous Generation
Whether it is price, color, or countries they were produced in, Millennials are willing to try just about any type of wine.
“Millennials are much more experimental with their wine drinking habits and choices. They’re a lot less traditional,” said Anderson.
That being said, it’s common for Millennials to not stick to just one or two kinds of wines. Instead, they enjoy the aspect of experimenting.
“If I’m having a date over to my place, I’ll probably buy a Spanish or South American wine that’s at least 25 dollars. I don’t mind spending more money on a particular bottle that I’m interested in,” said Conway.
Spending that much money on a bottle of wine is not uncommon for Millennials. Data indicates that 17 percent of Millennials who drink wine spend over 20 dollars per bottle, as compared to only 5 percent of Baby Boomer wine lovers, according to Forbes.
Being willing to buy and spend more on their wines has grabbed the wine industry’s attention.
Changing the Wine Industry
With Millennials now being one of the biggest driving forces of the wine market, it comes as no surprise that the wine industry is beginning to adjust to their preferences.
“I think as anything it takes time and adaptation. I think slowly, but surely, we are moving that way to meet Millennial’s needs,” said Katie Barnett, the Wine Grape Marketing Extension Specialist for Purdue Wine Grape Team in Indiana.
One aspect that is heavily beginning to change is the way the wine industry markets and advertises its products.
“Wineries are really adapting to how Millennials respond to visuals. They’re trying to use images on social media that they can interact with by sharing, receiving, screenshotting, or anything that really gives them the most connection,” said Barnett.
Using social media to advertise their business and wines is a smart idea, as over one half of wine-drinking Millennials said they talk about wine on Facebook, according to USA Today.
Aside from popular social media websites, phone applications, such as Vivino, allow consumers to interact with fellow wine-lovers and rate wines. Coming up with ways for wine-drinking Millennials to easily find reviews and ratings is important, as 56 percent of Millennials viewed wine reviews as “extremely” or “very important”, as opposed to only 21 percent of Baby Boomers, according to a 2014 Wine Market Council survey.
“The most important thing to me is definitely the reviews. I trust other people’s judgment and I will most likely look up the brand on the Internet and check for reviews prior to purchasing the bottle. If it has 3.5 stars or more, then I usually end up buying it,” said Sarah Stone, a 21-year-old student at Xavier University.
With Millennials now being the largest generation and the top wine consumers, the wine industry is only going to keep changing.
“I think it also starts with the new generation of wine makers and wine connoisseurs, who are Millennials, that are going to set that curve in evolving the wine industry and be an example right along with older and more established wineries. It just takes time,” said Barnett.