Wine and Millennials: “Everything Old Is New Again”

millennialsOK, I’ll try not to sound like an old geezer when I say this — I’m really tired of pandering to “Millennials.” It seems like every ambitious marketer and academic is studying or reporting on the habits and preferences of this category, which is supposed to be the focus of our sales and marketing efforts for everything from cars to computers to wine.

Here’s the latest overblown academic treatise that set me cursing:

Dr. Liz Thach MW, Korbel Professor of Wine Business & Management at Sonoma State University, released a study on the wine drinking habits of Millennials. Now before I go any further, let me specify that Millennials are defined as people born between 1980 and 2000 (give or take), and are also known Gen Y. They followed the previously famous Gen X, and they’re basically the children of the Post WWII Baby Boomers.

Have you got that? I know I’ve got two — Millennials, I mean. I (a self-confessed Baby Boomer) produced two children in the 1980′s, so I’ve had a chance to examine the care and feeding of this group in a very “up close and personal” way. I don’t feel I need an academic study to analyze their behavior, but I’ll go along with it. Hey, it may tell me something useful for my wine business.

This study, which was commissioned by the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University, was designed to determine the most common occasions during which young people drink wine. Here are the results.

The two wine-drinking occasions listed most often are Special Occasions and  Drinking Wine with Meals at a Formal Restaurant. Nothing revolutionary there, and in fact the study says these were the most common occasions listed by previous generations (including mine).

Next most popular: Family Get Togethers, Special Events (graduation, weddings, etc.), Friend’s Night, Parties, Theme Nights (movies, games, etc.) Date Nights/Romance, On Vacation.

OK, I’m waiting for something I don’t know already. Aren’t these the exact same occasions during which we Baby Boomers consume wine now? And that were popular when we were the 20-Something Generation (they didn’t give us initials like X and Y back then)?

And here’s the best part: “Millennials view wine as more of a social lubricant than perhaps previous generations.”

Are you kidding? We lubricated every social occasion with wine. I distinctly remember my favorite wine during my college days. It was a dry Hungarian red that came in a 1 liter bottle for about $5 (I didn’t say it was my favorite because it was good – it was my favorite because it was cheap). It lubricated many a social occasion,  let me tell you..

And our kids sure didn’t invent “wine as a romance device.” (I can’t go into detail on this one without embarrassing my kids and a few old friends…)

Back then, wine went with us many places. I remember packing Dubonnet  (yes, really — the sweet red aperitif from France) in my backpack to take on a canoeing trip. Again, I’m not saying it was good, just that it fit easily into a backpack and was, again, cheap.

In fact, the only time we drank good wine (i.e. wine that wasn’t cheap) was at the aforementioned “Formal Occasions” and “Drinking Wine with Meals at a Formal Restaurant” — because our parents were paying for it.

Now the baton has been passed to my Millennials and millions like them. They drink atrocious stuff in college: there’s a drinking game involving bag-in-a-box wine, where the bag is liberated from the box and tossed around the room. It’s hard to see that as a step up from my Hungarian red. They also drink wine with meals — when I’m buying the wine and making the meal.

My point is — “Everything Old Is New Again.” Remember that song? Actually, you have to be old to remember it. But the point is that there doesn’t seem to be much new about the new generation’s drinking habits. I think  the biggest change in drinking habits occurred when us Baby Boomers were young. We departed drastically from our parents’ habits: they either drank nothing at all (like mine) or drank highballs, liquor drinks and martinis (the “real” kind made with gin and vermouth, not your wimped-out “apple-tini” and “chocolate-tini” drinks).

But I’ll admit there was one new and intriguing wine occasion mentioned in the study:  “I like wine in the shower.” Wow! Now why didn’t we think of that? I may have to try that tonight…. Cheers!

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