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The (Me)rlot Generation: Millenials’ extreme wine consumption changing industry

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Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013 9:57 pm | Updated: 12:56 pm, Mon Oct 14, 2013.

In May, TIME magazine published a trend piece about millennials titled “The Me Me Me Generation,” but it failed to mention one interesting characteristic of our often-scolded generation: We’re turning the wine industry over on its head.

According to Fox Business, millenials drink more wine than previous generations when they turn 21. Wine distributors and advertisers are noticing, too.

According to a Fox Business article, “’Historically, wine has been marketed to older generations and came with a huge pretense,’ said Melissa Saunders, owner of wine importer Communal Brands. ‘But this generation is blowing all of that out of the water. They don’t care about the pretentiousness of a wine, they want something that is authentic and speaks to them. This is a huge marketing opportunity.’”

Millennials, according to Ronan Stafford, a Canadean Wine Report analyst, drank 25.7 percent of wine by the volume in 2012 — higher than the global average of 20.6 percent. Consumers of wine, however, are still overwhelmingly middle-aged and elderly: 44.1 percent of 2012 wine consumption in the U.S. was by men and women aged 55 and older.

However, as the article noted, let’s face it: Baby boomers are getting old, and they’re not going to live forever. Now that wine producers are noticing the growing popularity of vino among the young folks, market research has been conducted to determine buyer trends and figure out how wine suppliers can cater to the changing needs of consumers.

Millennials don’t care about showing off expensive, rare vintages to their friends as older people do, Rowan Gormley said, CEO of Naked Wines. Younger wine drinkers place value on the story behind the wine, how it’s packaged, where they found it and the unique blend it’s comprised of or region it’s from.

“This generation wants to know the story of a wine,” Melissa Saunders, owner of wine importer Communal Brands, told Fox. “You are going to see bottles with generous amounts of information that have a cool design that is authentic and appeals to people so they don’t look like everything else on the shelf.”

Given the proliferation of the extensive and cheap wine options available at Trader Joe’s, it doesn’t seem like ground-breaking news: Young people want a bottle of wine that’s low-priced but not cheap-tasting, packaged with a cool label and eco-friendly bottle and has a rich history.

We no longer think of wine as a status symbol. It’s much more acceptable to roll up at a BYOB party with a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck than a $100 bottle of Château Montrose cabernet sauvignon. And now, more than ever, we have a middle ground: Trader Joe’s wine is neither low-quality boxed drugstore wine nor is it extravagant and overpriced.

For all the knocking that millennials get for being lazy, entitled and narcissistic, the spike in wine consumption and the collective desires of younger wine buyers says a lot about the evolution of food culture.

A version of this editorial ran on page 6 on 10/14/2013 under the headline "Me(rlot) Generation: Millenials’ extreme wine consumption"

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