This summer, an officeless Spanish start-up run by people between 20 and 30 years of age launched Gik, the world’s first blue wine. While your friendly neighbourhood wine snob would get a migraine just by looking at its electric indigo-infused hue and roll his eyes to their homepage image of a man with a tyrannosaurus rex’s head in a pose that evokes Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam (let’s not tell him that it has non-caloric sweeteners added to make it “easier to drink”), the news of its existence went viral and it was hailed as a dream drink for millennials.
The generation, which for the purpose of this article we’ll define as people born between 1982 to 1998 (between 34 to 18 years of age in 2016) was in awe while their parents went ew (and their grandparents probably remain clueless), but it doesn’t take such an extreme example to realise that there are many differences in the way millennials like and share their wines.
Explorers and Influencers: A Bit of Intel on the Irish Millennial Wine Drinker
Global measurement and information company Nielsen reports that Millennials are experimental and respond to in-store displays, promotions and new-product launch marketing. When it comes to wine, they will place a bigger importance in products that are on sale compared to more senior generations.
A study conducted by Bord Bia, titled Understanding Millennials for better connections (July, 2014), points out some facts about Millennials in Ireland: It’s a sizeable group of over half a million people which is hard to please and highly influential to the point that the trends that drives them eventually impact older groups.
Many of the features identified in Millennials in Ireland affect their relationship with wine: “doing something new fuels a sense of personal achievement”, so whether it’s being the first one to try a new product or visit a recently opened bar, discovery and exploring are key. And so is indulgence, as “they please themselves as much as possible” and “comfortably make selfish choices.”
With lower entry level salaries and higher rent and cost of living, Millennials are actually quite good at budgeting, the report finds, but at the same time they “deliberately set some impulse purchase pocket money aside so they can pick up some things they find along the way that excites them.” So basically, they plan their spontaneity when shopping.
Compared to Gen X and Baby Boomers, Irish Millennials are most likely to visit specialist off-licenses (1.9 times per month compared to 1.2 and 0.6 respectively) and they also place care in the origin and story of the products they buy.
It’s Our Party We Can Do What We Want
Paraphrasing Miley Cyrus’s lyrics, Millennials drink what they want. A Twitter poll (image below) about their drinking habits hints at very little care for wine pairing rules. In fairness, even top sommeliers and restaurateurs are talking in more flexible terms lately, but some would go as far as reducing it to two questions: Do I like this wine? Do I like this food? Two “yeses” will green light the pairing.
Born between 1982 and 1998? Which of these Millenial Wine drinking habits are you most guilty of?
— Gabriela Guedez H (@Aerogaby) July 11, 2016
Kate Barry, a 25 year old Food Marketing and Entrepreneurship UCC graduate who works as Brand Manager for Barry and Fitzwilliam -Ireland’s largest independent Premium Drinks Distributor- considers that “the food and wine matching ‘rules’ are broken by the millennials. I think they drink what they like, what they most enjoy first ever before the pairing the wine with food.”
She runs a website called winesoftheworld.ie which offers wines that aren’t usually found in the high street and is studying for a Diploma with the WSET, so you can agree she knows her wines.
When talking about her own consumption habits, she first mentions that she tends to save it for the weekend, as she’s “very big into health and fitness”. She enjoys a glass of wine when she goes out for dinner “and perhaps even share a bottle depending” on who she’s with.
Instagrammable Wines Have the Advantage
Regarding which rules she still follows, she mentions the use of “a nice glass at the correct temperature” and she adds that “a white wine in a decent size glass that is chilling up on the outside from the perfect temperature of the wine paints a great picture for social media.”
And that is a big deal for Millennials. Instagram and social media friendly wines become more desirable. This includes the environment in which the wine was drank (a cool event, a party, a beautiful landscape) and the appearance of the product (giving a big importance to packaging and to the attractiveness of the label).
The latest Gallo Consumer Wine Trends Survey (2015) shows that 51% of Millennials (in the USA) will be encouraged to try a new wine if its recommended on social media. It also highlights that Millennials are “four times more likely than Baby Boomers to often select a bottle of wine based on its label”, and the features that will make them pick it up are mainly “personality” and “originality”.
They’re also twice as likely to purchase rosé and will pop open a bottle of sparkling wine more often than their parents.
Are wine hipsters the new wine snobs?
While your aforementioned wine snob might also scoff at a bottle of mass produced, non DO, top-selling wine because it’s sub-standard in taste and offers zero terroir expression; there’s a new breed of pretentiousness that would take more issue on how that wine is meant for the sheeple (portmanteau of sheep and people, or “the herd”) and would refuse to show up to a party with such a mainstream offer.
Meet the wine hipsters, they might not have the budget to splurge in Grand Crus, but they surely know how to feel superior with their obscure, indie choices. Sweet talk them by using the words boutique, small-batch and artisan, and turn them off by making them wear a tie to the tasting. Is it low sulphur? Good. Does it come from an unpronounceable grape variety thought extinct for two hundred years? Awesome!
“Hipsters to me are all about what’s new what’s different what’s unique”, says Kate Barry, who has had the opportunity to observe closely the evolution of wine trends and how a wine goes in and out of fashion, especially among younger people. “I think one of the most recent trends was Pinot Grigio but now the hipster wine snobs turn their nose up at this. At the moment it’s all about Sauvignon Blanc particularly from Marlborough which I enjoy myself but I don’t think you can label hipsters or wine snobs drinking this.” And since now “everybody” is drinking NZ Sauv Blanc, we wonder what will be the next big thing…
Sometimes it’s cyclical, like Chardonnay, which was so common place that it inspired a group of haters calling themselves ABCs (anything but Chardonnay). Kate suggests that sappy Bridget Jones was the cause of Chardo’s demise but “Chardonnay is now coming back into fashion, so wines change with the trends and most of us like to try something new.”
Regarding what’s coming, “Malbec particularly from Argentina is trending for reds… rumour has it there should be some Australian Malbec coming to the market soon”, she says, and you might want to get your hands on one now, so by the time it hits the shelves you can say you tasted it before it was cool.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.