It’s a Friday night and the crowd is teeming at one of the many increasingly successful wine bars spreading across the country. The steady laughter and the conversation create a vibe that would be annoying to anyone trying to carry on a serious business conversation. But no one here appears to be serious. They’re all young.
Not long ago you wouldn’t find a 20- or 30-something in a wine bar. Beer and spirits has long been the choice of young drinkers who are more happy with a Bud Lite than a California pinot noir. But here at Crush young professionals circle a Enomatic carousel of more than a dozen bottles and muse over a Santa Rita pinot noir or an Australian shiraz. Some 5-ounce pours fetch more than $20 — hardly the price of a Bud Lite.
And it’s not just about the alcohol. These young drinkers may have been having fun, but they were discussing the merits of the wine, their preferences and their knowledge. Was this the real Millennial generation or just outcasts?
Guard your cellars, baby boomers. Your kids like wine.
In fact, the 70 million people aged between 17 and 34 — Millennials — are growing more fond of wine.
About 26 percent of the Millennials drink wine several times a week, according to the Wine Market Council. Another 19 percent drink wine at least weekly and 6 percent say they enjoy wine every day. Together they make up 51 percent of their age group — an increase of 14 percent over five years.
Generation X — ages 35 to 46 — moved from 41 percent core wine drinkers to 62 percent in 2010.
The reasons for the growing popularity of wine is multi-fold. First, wine has been the drink of choice of their parents unlike the previous generation that preferred cocktails after work. Most likely, the younger generation was introduced to wine at the dinner table when dad uncorked a wine for holidays.
Second, wine is pretty well accepted as a healthier alternative to beer and spirits. It has a modern sophistication that was once identified by a Manhattan. Younger drinkers are far more willing to experiment with different wines from all over the world. The chatter we heard at Crush included preferences for malbec or viognier — grape varieties relatively unknown in this country when Millennials were born.
Wine producers and their marketing departments recognized the potential long ago. They stepped up their promotions on Facebook and Twitter. New avant-garde labels and clever names were born to capture an emerging market.
Although their parents still drink wine more often, the growth of wine consumption among the young is giving a nice boost to the industry. The United States has experienced 17 straight years of growth of wine consumption.
We have noticed the shift among our own children, nephews and nieces who are eschewing beer for wine. And they are recognizing what they like based on flavors, not price. It’s actually gratifying.