“We can pay off our student loans or we can buy wine. What do you think we’re going to do?”
One reason I hired Churro as the blog’s new associate editor was his perspective – he isn’t a Baby Boomer, and brings a younger, more fresh approach to the blog. Which is the topic of this podcast: Why Millennials aren’t as interested in wine as their parents and grandparents. Our conversation included:
• Wine prices, and that wine is too expensive for many younger consumers.
• How to make wine easier by using wine apps like Vivino.
• Wine’s competition from craft beer and cocktails. As Churro noted, “they’re doing some amazing things with craft beer these days.” And, by omission, not so amazing things with wine.
• That it’s OK to sniff and swirl and spit, as long as you don’t make a production out of it.
This edition of Ask the WC: Dependable grocery store wines, plus, Millennials and wine and canned wine
Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question by clicking here.
Dear Wine Curmudgeon: I buy most of my wine at the grocery store, and you don’t review a lot of grocery store wine. Are there a couple you can recommend? Supermarket shopper
Dear Supermarket: Of course – Bogle is always worthwhile, and Line 39 and Hess from California usually are, too. The Villa Maria (closer to $15) and Matua sauvignon blancs from New Zealand are typically well made. Many of the roses offer value, like the Charles & Charles and the Bieler Sabine. There is a catch, though, even with these wines — grocery store pricing. One day the wine will be $10, and the next day it will be $18, and there is no rhyme or reason why.
Hey Jeff: Aren’t you wrong about the lack of interest in wine among younger generations? I thought I saw a study a couple of years ago that said Millennials were the biggest consumers of wine in the U.S.? Curious
Dear Curious: I think you’re referring to the infamous Wine Market Council study, which was shunted to one side and never spoken of again. I’ve been told there were problems with the methodology. Most studies since then, including this one, aren’t optimistic about Millennials taking up wine the way the Baby Boomers did.
Hi, WC: What do you think about canned wine? Isn’t it kind of cool? Tired of bottles
Dear Tired: Canned wine is like the rest of wine. Some of it is terrific, some of it isn’t, and much of the excitement is marketing driven. The smart people I’ve talked to say canned wine has a future as an alternative like boxed wine, filling a niche in the market. My other problem, besides the middling quality/price ratio for too many of them, is that I don’t like to drink out of a can. I don’t drink beer that way, either.
This week’s wine news: Millennials are not the wine business’ savior, plus some silly bits about investing in wine and breasts as a side effect of beer
• No thanks: Tim Carl writes in the wine business’ hometown newspaper that Millennials, the 20-somethings who are supposed to save the wine business, won’t: “[N]o business should expect them to be frivolous or willing to pay excessively high prices for anything they buy.” Which, of course, is the opposite of what almost every wine seer, expert, and prognosticator has been telling us since Millennials became a demographic. But Carl explains why that isn’t the case, and adds that he is tired of “many in the same generation that caused the unprecedented mess for the younger generation chastising them for their delayed ‘adulting.’ ” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Which I have, and it’s good to see someone else reject the blather we’ve been reading for so long.
• But what if I want to drink it? The Wine Enthusiast has published its list of the top 100 investment wines of 2017, and you’ll be glad to know that half the wines costs less than $100. In fact, notes the magazine, “In recent years, wine has shown to be a more stable investment than classic cars, rare art and jewelry, and has outpaced the competition in price growth.” Which makes the Wine Curmudgeon wonder why anyone would pay hundreds of dollars for a wine but not want to drink it. Still, it happens. A very good friend reports that he knew someone who had an “investment-grade” collection, but would never let anyone drink any of the wines. And, said my friend, the guy said he had no intention of drinking them – those wines were there for showing off.
• Man breasts: This is the kind of story that defines the New York Post. It warns beer drinkers that the “hops used in your favorite drink could be giving you man boobs. That’s because hops contain a high amount of phytoestrogen — a plant-derived chemical that is similar to the female sex hormone estrogen.” Who knew? I always thought it was all the empty calories, plus sitting on the sofa while drinking multiple six-packs, watching TV, and gorging on chips and pizza.
• Damn those young people: The panel discussion was probably terrific, featuring some of the smartest people in wine retailing. But the report of the event highlighted just how bewildering wine drinkers who aren’t Baby Boomers remain to those who sell wine. One of the lines in the story read: Retailers are having a difficult time understanding “the fickle tastes of younger consumers.” Which is winespeak for “Why don’t younger consumers drink the same wine that the Boomers do, and pick those wines by scores like the Boomers do?” Because that’s what the wine business is set up for, and why should it change for the people who buy the wine?
• Bug infestation: The glassy-winged sharpshooter, the scourge of the wine industry, has been found in Sonoma and Napa counties in the heart of California wine country. And while it’s not yet time to panic, any appearance of the sharpshooter and the Pierce’s Disease it transmits means it’s time to be concerned. The sharpshooter injects bacteria into the vine, and the bacteria blocks water from going through the plant, which kills it. Pierce’s can total a vineyard, stripping all the leaves from the wines in almost no time at all. There’s no cure or treatment, and the only preventative is pesticide, which brings its own problems. All this means that Pierce’s is perhaps the worst problem in wine that isn’t phylloxera.
• Cranky and irritable: Those of us who prefer bitter tastes, including apparently some kinds of red wine, are more likely to be sadists. Or so says a recent study from the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Granted that one person is a small sample size, but I am drinking black coffee as I write this, but feel no urge to kick either of my dogs. Still, the researchers say it may be that those who enjoy bitter tastes also tend to show a lack of emotion or empathy and display more anti-social behavior.
Or, as my pal W.R. Tish phrased it in the headline for my story in Beverage Media magazine: ?Boom go the Millennials ?.
The wine business has mostly accepted that the Millennials, born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, are here to stay; I hardly hear any grumbling about parent ?s basements anymore. And, as John Gillespie, the president of the Wine Market Council has said many times, anyone who doesn ?t pay attention does so at their own peril.
Confidence is one thing, but that 71 percent number is something else entirely.
Almost no one who writes about wine respects you as much as I do ? in fact, I ?m in the middle of a trade magazine story detailing the massive changes you ?ll bring to the wine business.
But even I had to giggle when the new Wine Market Council study reported that 7 out of 10 of you who drink wine at least once a week said you could ?correctly differentiate a glass of merlot from a glass of cabernet sauvignon. ?
That ?s saying a lot. For one thing, the two wines can taste quite similar, especially given that one goal of post-modern winemaking is to eliminate the qualities that make them different. For another, I often have trouble telling the difference between cabernet and merlot — and I ?ve been drinking wine for a long time.
In this, I ?d love to do a blind tasting ? for money, of course, because I have all these expenses ? to see if you can really do it. I ?d enjoy being proved wrong, though I doubt that would happen. It ?s one thing to wax poetic about wine at the dinner table with your friends, and something altogether different when a bunch of people are waiting for you to demonstrate the acuity of your palate.
Yet, having said all this, I ?m quite impressed that so many of you are so confident about wine. It ?s not something that we ?ve always seen in the past from younger wine drinkers, who are usually more worried about using a corkscrew than about what the wine tastes like. No doubt this is yet another way in which you ?ll change the wine business. I guess I need to figure out to work that into my story.