Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Millennials: The Next Generation
Most of my posts tend to be reviews of events I was fortunate enough to attend or wines I was able to taste. Today I hope you will allow me to diverge just a little bit to discuss a subject that has me in a tizzy...that’s right, a tizzy!
The subject of this post is all about the negative reputation of young wine drinkers. Here in Sonoma County there are a multitude of events where participants purchase an all-access pass to participating wineries. Right now we are in the middle of the Wine Road Barrel Tasting event. Taking place over two weekends, March 2-4 and March 9-11, this event features the chance to visit plenty of wineries, taste barrel samples, and even purchase those future releases. Each of the two years I have been around this event, the potential over-consumption by some participants has stirred controversy.
In a recent blog post by Peg Melnik on the local Press Democrat, the “largest newspaper between San Francisco and the Oregon border”, the behavior of young wine drinkers participating in Barrel Tasting was addressed. Criticism over their arrival to wineries in buses with a non-wine beverage in their glass was central to the article. Additionally, the co-owner of Armida Winery was interviewed and complained over the large number of young wine drinkers participating because it deterred more “serious wine buyers” from stopping by the winery. In contrast to 500-600 participants last year, Armida saw close to 1000 participants this year, noting the surge in younger visitors. As a blog dedicated to the 20-30 something audience, I feel a bit of an obligation to address these criticisms and the overall opinion of the Millennial consumer.
Not being present at this particular winery, I can’t argue that a group of young wine drinkers got off a bus with something other than wine in their glass. But it is frustrating to see so much emphasis put on what is arguably a small percentage of the participants at this amazing event. There are far more participants, both young and old, who appreciate the opportunity to try a large number of world class wines in an easy format like Barrel Tasting. Focusing on the small number of negative incidents is a misrepresentation of the event and of young wine drinkers. Furthermore, negative incidents like this are just as likely to be caused by a group of older wine consumers who have more disposable income to rent limos and buses, thus not having to be concerned with their intake.
It is a shame that seeing 400-500 more participants at the winery this year was such a burden. Perhaps the sales this year were lower, I wasn’t there so I don’t know, but to not see the additional 500 visitors as anything but a blessing in this economy astounds me. Why not try and make these new, younger visitors “serious wine buyers” instead of shunning them? Why not focus on giving them an experience they will enjoy? And why not treat them with a little respect that will make them want to come back? The reality is the millennial generation IS the next generation of wine buyers and contrary to popular belief, they do have disposable income. Millennials want to feel important and expand their knowledge base...if you can do these two things; you are on your way to securing your future.
So why is this important to discuss and why bring more attention to this blog post? Well, there are really two reasons. First, I am concerned that the Wine Road Barrel Tasting event is being misrepresented. There will, of course, be a few “sour grapes” of all ages, in an event that attracts 20,000 attendees from all over the country. To focus only on those few is not fair to the event and may actually deter more people from going than the crowds. Second, to focus only on the Millennial subset of those sour grapes is a misrepresentation of a large and growing demographic of wine consumers. From reading her post about last year’s event, it is clear Ms. Melnik is not fond of the Millennial generation as legitimate wine consumers. I urge you all to not let this characterization be proved correct. Continue to be good stewards of the wine industry and show everyone, including Ms. Melnik, why Millennials truly are the future of the wine industry.