Grapevine: The Rising Influence of the Millennial Generation

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Nick Antonaccio
Nick Antonaccio

Much has been written about the Millennial Generation (born between 1982 and 2000), their unique buying patterns, social values and affinity for all things digital.

These attributes have influenced entire segments of the economy, social patterns and political ideologies. This uniqueness extends to preferences for wine (for those of legal drinking age). As their numbers and influence increase (they are 75 million strong, larger than the Baby Boomer Generation, born between 1946 and 1964), they have garnered the attention of economists plotting the future and consumer businesses seeking to cater to this generation’s preferences.

I’ve been researching this phenomenon and have distilled the Millennials’ preferences for wine and wine trends. If you are a Gen Xer (1963-1981), Boomer, or one of the dwindling Silent Generation (1923-1945), you may wish to compare your personal preferences to those of this coveted demographic.

  1. Millennials prefer Moscato, Malbec, sparkling wines and red blends (mainly American, with a fruity, low acid and slightly sweet style).
  2. New formats are the new trend. The Franzia and Black Box brands, at three liters, are very popular for upscale Millennials. Both are packaged in plastic bags inside cardboard containers. Convenient containers make it easier to socialize with wine.
  3. The price sweet spot is $12 to $18. This also happens to be the price range where many of the most popular and quality wines may be found. Western Europe is exporting significant quantities of highly regarded wines to the United States market in this range.
  4. The point of entry for new wine lovers has changed. There are now many more brands available in lower price ranges that are starting points for understanding wines. These wines provide an entrée into higher priced, higher quality wines, as increasing discretionary income in the future will presumably afford Millennials the luxury of tasting prestige wines.
  5. The up and coming winemakers worldwide are increasingly Millennials. For example, Taken Wine Company is a venture of two friends who grew up in famous Napa Valley family wineries. Josh Phelps (Swanson Vineyards) and Carlo Trinchero (Trinchero Family Estates) decided to venture out on their own five years ago to create a line of wines focused on their generation’s preferences. Today, they’ve expanded to three lines and have broadened their appeal to Millennials.
  6. Of course, this generation is tuned in to digital marketing at a much younger age than their predecessors. Many Baby Boomers have become immersed in social media and digital advertising, but it is not as natural as it is for the 18- to 33-year-old demographic.
  7. Sharing is common in influencing their decisions. Trust in crowd consensus is a common determinant in decision-making. From Airbnb to Uber to Cellar Tracker (for wine reviews), Millennials no longer rely on a few trusted sources. Sharing opinions with the masses has replaced reliance on individual experts.

Lest I mislead you to believe that the Millennials have taken over the economy, the fact is that while they are growing in influence and purchasing power, the Baby Boomer generation is still driving the economy. Baby Boomers are open-minded to new wines and trends, which they deftly track on social media. Their disposable income, as a group, is greater than Millennials; thus, they still hold sway over many advertisers and marketers. In fact, Millennials, as a group, are at a distinct financial disadvantage. They have less wealth and more debt than previous generations did at the same age, due in large part to a shrinking job market, exorbitant student loans and climbing rent prices and home costs.

As Baby Boomers age and “fade away,” the growing influence of succeeding generations has captured the attention of advertisers and the media. In their efforts to prepare for the inevitable, are businesses being shortsighted in estimating the power of today’s Millennials?

Millennials are not a singularly unique demographic, but rather the leading indicator of where we are all headed, both the generations ahead of them and those in their rear-view mirrors.

Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 20 years he has conducted 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 or on Twitter @sharingwine.

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