French Millennials drink less wine than American Millennials

by Eve Resnick on May 23, 2008

in General

This is the result of a French-American study conducted by Dr Liz Thach and Prof. Francois d’Hauteville. Thach found out that French Millennials don’t drink wine because it’s expensive, bad tasting, difficult to understand and alcoholic. They keep drinking an occasional glass of wine while eating at the family table but they’d rather buy beer or cocktail when on their own. This study comforts the very thorough book written by Dr. Celine Simonnet-Toussaint in 2006 on the subject, Les jeunes et le Vin (Young people and Wine) and doesn’t bring any new information on the subject.

It is more interesting to make a parallel with American Millennials, one of the most interesting segment of potential or existing wine consumers. How did they get interested in wine? For some of them, their parents drank wine and they grew up with wine on the table. “My parents are both big into wine”, said 22-year-old Jennifer Hammons to journalist Deborah Pankey, Daily Herald Food Editor on November 30, 2005.”At first I didn’t like it, but then it grew on me.” Same scenario for young people in France: wine is a food always on the family table. Young children are encouraged to taste a drop of champagne or wine during family gatherings. Later in their teens, they can drink a third of a glass of wine or champagne with their meal. Why do they then reject wine to go on to beer, cocktails or liquors? Very often, as sociologist Céline Simonnet-Toussaint explains in her book , young people under 25 reject wine because it is the symbol of the family. Young people want to experiment with their freedom, but they come back to wine at around 25, when they get their first job, their first “real” apartment and start settling into their new life.

Others discover wine by themselves – during a trip to a wine country, like Napa in the USA, Burgundy in France, Tuscany in Italy, Priorato in Spain or Porto in Portugal. They get interested, go to wine classes or tastings, join a wine club and explore wine stores to get good advice. Mostly they listen to their peers, surf the Internet to read about wine and discuss their new passion in forums.

The wine industry is aware of the need of young people for more knowledge. At the same time, this new generation of wine drinkers is very different from preceding generations. They have a much sweeter tooth being the “Coca Cola generation”, they are “zappers”, having known TV and the Internet all their lives, and they are used to getting what they want and paying a high price for it. After all, they pay $3.50 for their daily Starbucks cappuccino and download their songs for $1 or their movies for $5 every day on their iPod or MP3. They know that everything has a price and usually a high price.

Taking these parameters into account, some winemakers thought about designing wines specifically targeted at Millennials and GenXers: fun labels, fruity forward wines and a high price. Millennials do not hesitate to pay up to $20 for a bottle of wine! Indeed, they do not yet have any big financial burdens: no children, often a two-income household, no parents to take care of, a good salary and a large disposable income. Unfortunately for the wine industry, they rarely buy the same bottle twice, because there is such a huge choice of brands. They want to be the first to discover a new brand or a new trend, the first to try them and share them with their peers.

At the same time, young people are not as comfortable as their elders when they buy wine. They can be adventurous but from time to time they seek quality and certainty. Whether they are American, European or Japanese, they will rely on a classic wine from Europe or a well known luxury brand from the New World. Wine is still a little intimidating for Millennials, whether they’re French or American!

That’s why I’m a little skeptical of Thach’s conclusions: I’d like to see some figures!

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