“There are a lot of young wine drinkers nowadays who are starting to be the next generation of collectors,” said Wesley Steffens, 31, who manages his family’s new Vineyard 7 & 8 winery on the hills over Napa Valley. This somewhat provocative statement made me think about the future of wine and more specifically of great wines. It is true that traditional collectors, mostly Baby Boomers, are reaching their 60s, some even their 70s and 80s. I know some of them who are worried about their collection because their children are not at all interested by wine: they know they won’t be able to drink all their bottles and wonder what their fate will be when they’re gone. Some sell their collection by auction, others to great restaurants or just hope for the best.
And those optimistic ones could be right. The Millennials are drinking more and more wine. Instead of drinking beer in college, they drink wine – Two Buck Chuck for example (the $2 Charles Shaw wine) – same price as beer but classier. They want to learn but in a fun way. No classes, no readings but tastings in a festive mood. Some brands understood the mentality of the Millennials, a generation with no brand loyalty. The trick is to catch their attention and retain it. Those wineries organize huge parties or organize a special “experience” for their younger customers. Garen Staglin, owner of the famous high-end Staglin Family winery, provides tour of his vineyard where the movie, The Parent Trap, starring Linsday Lohan, was filmed. Judd Finkelstein, from Judd’s Hill winery founded by his parents in Napa Valley, organizes a barbecue, plays ukulele in his Hawaian shirt and entertains his customers. The winery also created a “microcrush” cuvee allowing its customers to make their own wine without all the hassles of owning a winery.
These initiatives allow the young generation to learn about wine and move up from Two Buck Chuck to higher end wine. They become accustomed to buy wine instead of beer or liquor, to taste it in a fun environment and to enjoy it without all the fuss usually made about wine by older people. Isn’t it the best way to teach wine to the young ones?