How to Win Back Under-40 Drinkers | Wine Enthusiast
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13 Things Millennial and Gen Z Wine Pros Say Will Reach Young Drinkers

In January, the 2023 State of the Wine Industry Report was released by Silicon Valley Bank, a longtime analyst of the wine industry in the U.S. While the report was chock full of data, what stood out to many (including Eric Asimov at The New York Times), was that the greatest loss in consumption share is with young wine drinkers—consumers aged 21 to 40, i.e. millennials and Gen Z-ers. Conversely, the biggest growth area was among those over 60—meaning Baby Boomers.

This information didn’t come as a surprise to many in the industry who have been aware of wine’s appeal to a mostly older crowd, but now it’s becoming clear that something must be done to reach young wine drinkers. And with plenty of millennials and Gen Z folks working in the industry, it seems like a no-brainer to ask them for advice on how to attract their peers.

To that end, we spoke with people in the wine industry who are below the age of 40 about ways to attract young wine drinkers. Here’s what they shared.

Danya Degen (Millennial): Offer Creative Tasting Experiences

Director of Operations and Wine for Duck & The Peach, La Collina and The Wells in Washington, D.C.

“Traditional tasting experiences are costly—a wine dinner, a trip to wine country [or] even walking into your local wine store has some risk built in. They cost money, they operate on the buy-to-try model and require the guest to already be interested in wine,” Degen says. If restaurants and retailers want to capture the young people who don’t yet have that interest, she continues, they need to create more affordable, experiential tasting experiences.

“Get creative with the menu venue, show them something delicious from where the wine is from, touch on an additional sense by bringing in music or art and introduce them to people who made the wine!” she suggests. It’s also important to keep these events accessible. “Keep the event to the cost of an affordable ($20) bottle of wine,” Degen stresses.

Tia Polite (Gen Z): Give Explorative Pours

Sommelier at Indienne in Chicago

“I believe the most important thing we can offer as sommeliers is explorative pouring,” says Polite. “I will try, whenever possible, to pour tastes for people who are curious or lost within the ‘By the Glass’ list and share insight into the production differences, climate and regionality of bottles, if they are interested.”

She also encourages young wine drinkers to take pictures of the bottles they love so that they have a record of their wine preferences. “It makes entering a wine shop and exploring a little less stressful,” she says.

Robin Wright (Millennial): Champion Social Change

Beverage Director at Ci Siamo in New York City

“A way to reach Gen Z is first recognizing what their generation represents,” explains Wright. “I believe their generation is looking to support social change. Championing and recommending farm-focused [and] organic vineyards, female-driven wineries and Black-owned wineries is a great step in the right direction.”

Jessica Blumenthal (Millennial): Disclose Nutritional Information

Founding VP of Brand & Innovation at Avaline

“Wine brands should start disclosing their nutritional information and ingredients,” says Blumenthal. “There’s a misconception among consumers that wine is high in sugar because the industry doesn’t talk about it, and I really believe it puts the category at a disadvantage when compared to other alcoholic beverages.”

Maggie Kruse (Millennial): Embrace Social Media

Head Winemaker at Jordan Winery in Sonoma, CA

“I believe these generations are much more interested in discovery, engagement and shop-ability via social media, specifically Instagram and TikTok, when it comes to buying wine,” says Kruse. “We often see millennial and Gen Z consumers make purchasing decisions based on the creators they follow and the experiences and/or products they recommend.”

Ian Lokey (Millennial): Don’t Shun the Can

Beverage Director at Sushi Note and Sushi Note Omakase in Los Angeles

“The entire scale of what constitutes quality has to go,” stresses Lokey. “We can’t seem to get past the idea that if it isn’t in a glass bottle it must be trash. Sure, that fancy bottle with all its ceremony and pomp makes for a great date night at an expensive restaurant, but we don’t consider taking cans (which protect the wine very well!) of wine to the beach or while watching a sporting event.”

That way of thinking is a self-fulfilling prophecy, he continues. “No one thinks good wine can come in a can, so no one makes a good wine in a can. We must change these antiquated ideas.”

Erik Muntean (Millennial): Love the Lower ABV

Sommelier and Restaurant Manager at Sierra Nevada Resort in Mammoth, CA

“Millennials/Gen Z are responsive to lower alcohol in wine and the ability to have more than a glass or two before feeling buzzed,” notes Muntean. “The U.S. wine scene needs to broaden from the trend of higher and higher alcohol and take a page from storied, but less well-known wines from cooler climates (e.g. Germany and Austria, even New Zealand) and fresher styles of winemaking.”

Justin Kosmina (Millennial): Be Transparent

Head of Sales at The Hidden Sea

“[Young wine drinkers] are not afraid to ‘peel back the onion’ layers of a brand and see if the brand’s values align with their own,” offers Kosmina. He says that The Hidden Sea’s mission—to remove plastic from the ocean—has resonated with consumers. So has the brand’s easy-to-understand promise, which is to remove and recycle 10 plastic bottles from the ocean for every bottle purchased.

“It’s an exciting time for brands who truly want to make an impact and do better for our planet,” says Kosmina. Sustainability in wine is in, which is great news. However, he urges skepticism. “This environment is also enabling brands to leverage the word ‘sustainability’ for better commercial outcomes. Fortunately, it’s as simple as a Google search, so buyers can continue to do some digging into the brands they’re buying.”

Emma Bertrand (Gen Z): Don’t Be Snobby

Creative Director, Influencer and Social Media at Gérard Bertrand in Southern France

“Make it a point to avoid talking down to young people,” stresses Bertrand. “We’re here as a resource for them to explore and experience the fun of wine in an easy, accessible way. For example, Gérard Bertrand wines now display a QR code on their back labels to provide easy access to tasting notes, pairing suggestions and information on winemaking practices and regions, as a way to support people wherever they might be on their wine journey.”

Wine Director at Ernesto’s in New York City

“It’s important to take a look at current trends and see what guests are asking for/drinking,” notes Courville. “Two big ones are certainly natural wines and orange/skin-contact wines. A few times a night we get asked for these types of wines. Having those available for consumers is important because they are very likely to come back for more.” 

Taylor Clark (Gen Z): Be Relatable and Inclusive

Brand Marketing Manager of Anaba Wines in Sonoma, CA

“The wine industry needs to feel more approachable,” says Clark. “Move over old white guys, we want female winemakers, people of color and relatability. We want fun labels, relatable stories, engaging thoughtful content and sustainable thought leaders.”

Jamie Harrison Rubin (Millennial): Make Wine Affordable

Consulting sommelier for Southwark and Ambra in Philadelphia

“Cost is a huge issue for younger drinkers,” notes Rubin. “Global benchmark wines are no longer attainable for anyone on a reasonable budget.”

What does that mean for the average young wine drinkers? “It means we have to stop using these wines as reference points,” Rubin says. “It means that we need to focus on wines that are obtainable. We need to center local producers when we can and try to find new and creative ways to describe a wine that doesn’t call back to a time when Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was the hot new thing. It isn’t anymore.”

Daniella Curcio (Gen Z): Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Marketing Coordinator at Kobrand Corporation’s Louis Jadot in France’s Côte d’Or

“Gen Z and millennials enjoy the juxtaposition of seeing a verified brand following the current trends or using humor as a form of marketing,” says Curcio. “This can be seen by many verified brands, especially in the comments section, where brands typically interact with their audience. The key is doing this right so that the humor is authentic and engaging and doesn’t come off as trying too hard.”