Much has been written about the life and times of the Millennial Generation. They are unique in the history of our nation. Yet, almost paradoxically, they are the most informed and least financially secure generation.
Whether measured in economic, financial or social terms, their lifestyle and stature differs significantly from that of other generations alive in the United States. While each generation stamps its imprint on our culture and values, this generation has come of age during a period of great financial, political and technological turmoil. They wield great influence in the post-Great Recession economy, yet personally suffer from the changing landscape of this same economy.
Who are these up and comers who will influence and lead our nation into the future? In many ways, they differ significantly from many of their predecessors. The Greatest Generation (born 1901-1924) grew up in the midst of worldwide conflict and economic turmoil; an atmosphere of political and financial insecurity prevailed. The Baby Boomer Generation (born 1946-1964) grew up in the midst of economic prosperity, living the American Dream. Generation X (born 1965-1981) grew up in the midst of changing social values, political apathy and uncertain financial security; the American Dream became increasingly illusive for many.
The Millennial Generation is loosely defined as anyone turning 18 years of age since the dawn of the new millennium (born 1982-2000). They are at the forefront of modern technological advances (the iPhone and comparable smartphones didn’t exist until 2007) and at a crossroad of economic fortune and the decline of personal wealth.
Yet this generation persists and succeeds in the world of wine appreciation. It has permanently changed the way we perceive wine, evaluate it and purchase it. As consumers, they have embraced technology as a direct means to expand their knowledge and appreciation of wine. With the new tools of the 21st century, they can a) seek out opinions and expertise (blogs and phone apps), b) access massive banks of internet data, c) offer their opinions of individual wines to their peers through social media and 4) instantaneously share opinions with other like-minded consumers (text messages and Twitter). No longer do 20th century wine critics command unilateral respect and influence; it is the young consumers who are evolving as the go-to source for the latest wines to seek out – or to avoid.
Have any of these Millennials, the oldest of whom are in their early thirties, risen to the top of the American wine world? The latest edition of one of the preeminent wine magazines, the Wine Enthusiast (www.winemag.com), with editorial offices and a retail showroom on North Bedford Road in Mt. Kisco, has scoured the American landscape in search of “tastemakers” under the age of forty.
Be they sommeliers, bartenders, importers, winemakers or wine directors, these professionals, many of them Millennials, are at the forefront of a sea change in Americans’ attitudes about alcoholic beverages. This profile provides excellent insights into the attitudes and ideologies of a generation weaned on the traditions of their elders yet setting new ground in creating their own unique focus.
But, for all of the optimism exuded by Millennials as they adopt and adapt new technology and social values, there is a dark undercurrent lurking.
The lingering effects of the Great Recession loom large in their future. Consider these facts: unemployment levels remain high among recent college graduates; outstanding student loan debt weighs heavily on their financial success and wealth building; fewer can afford to own homes; and they are delaying marriage and starting families.
As a result of these dichotomies, many Millennials have “Champagne taste and a beer wallet,” as my late mother was given to state.
The Millennial Generation is poised to become the largest generation in American history. The question yet to be answered is the impact of their social and economic tenets on the future profile of the American culture.
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 20 years he has conducted numerous wine tastings and lectures. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @sharingwine