As you walk the aisles of your favorite location to buy wine, have you ever looked around at who else is there? You can bet the wine industry is doing its best to figure out who you are, and who your fellow consumers are. Recently, I attended a tasting at Miami Culinary Institute featuring Dos Almas Wines from Chile, a very good line of wine new to the market. A friend who works for Zonin, the Italian wine company that owns Dos Almas, explained that these wines, retailing in the $15-$20 price range, hit what he felt was a “sweet spot.” He noted that a huge number of wines sell for less than $10 (the industry calls $10 the “premium” category) but said this isn’t where the quality is. He thinks the best deals in wine today (and by deal, I mean the balance of price with quality) is to be found in that $15-$20 range. To him, the quality is there, and so is the market.
Of course, this begs the question, “who is the market?” According to a recent study by Wine Access, an online retailer of wines in all price ranges, the top market segment today is millennials, consumers born between 1977 and 2000. That means this group comprises people who are just now of legal drinking age (21 years in the US, so born in 1996 or 1997) up to about 40 years of age. That’s a powerful market segment and one that is hard to pin down because it includes people just entering the job market (and thus just now gaining control of their finances) and people who may have had established careers for 15 years.
According to Drinks Business magazine in a report on the study, “Generation X fine-wine consumers spend $5,717 (with birth ages ranging from the late 1960s to early 1980s) on wine annually, compared to baby boomers (born between the mid-1940s and 1960s), who spend $4,900 and millennials, who spend $4,163.” So that indicates Gen-X’ers are the big spenders, but wait there’s more.
The study continues, “the results found that 65 percent of consumers born between the mid 1980s and late 1990s seek out rare and unusual wines and vintages, while 75 percent wish they could spend more on wine. Generation X were the most likely to spend $70 on a bottle of wine more than once a month, are the most engaged wine club customers and are growing their wine cellar.” In other words, millennials are set to take over and become one of the most adventurous, and lucrative, demographics to target.
What does that mean for the wine market? In an era when an increasing number of wines seem to be made in the winery rather than in the vineyard, marketers may be directing what is in the bottle as much as Mother Nature. At the same time, if millennials give an emphasis to products that are “natural” as many seem to do, we may have a welcome return to nature in that magical $15-$20 range.
It is not lost on me that most of my sommelier friends who serve as judges at our annual Best in Glass Wine Challenge are themselves millennials so I look forward to tasting their gold medal picks in the weeks ahead.