I have been involved with the wine industry for more than 25 years and I have seen and enjoyed a number of significant changes in the wine world.
There is no question that the quality and availability of today’s wines has grown dramatically. Of course, the price of many fine wines has also seen an equally dramatic increase over the years. Many wine regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy and California may be stretching it a bit with regard to price and quality.
But the real changes to the wine world are yet to happen. We are beginning to see the influence of specific age groups on wine consumption and varietal and regional wine preferences.
Two recent articles in the September edition of Wine Spectator by Ben O’Donnell and Mat Kramer have focused on some of the specifics that may best describe these approaching changes. Without a doubt, the thing that impressed me in both articles was the growing influence of the younger generation on today’s wine consumption. Like many consumer discussions, there are several groups of people that one has to consider regarding the selection and preferences of particular products, including wine. We have the baby boomers (ages 55-64), the generation Xers and t0he rapidly growing millennial generation (ages 25-34). I personally don’t fit into any of these categories but I may engender the peculiarities and frequencies of all of them.
One of the notable changes or trends we see in wine consumption is that many of the baby boomers that enjoy wine weekly continue to turn to California for their wine selections.
Millennial consumers on the other hand appear to prefer European styles of wine in preference to California. It may be, as Mat Kramer suggests in his article, that the Millennials are more value oriented and “open-minded” with regard to their wine selections and may be looking for something different. I think style and value is what they are searching for and today’s winemakers need to be aware of this as they look to their own future.
I am not a beer drinker but I am impressed with some of the more recent craft beers that I have tasted. Ben O’Donnell’s column in Wine Spectator offers some revealing data regarding wine and beer consumption. For the first time in many years, wine has challenged beer as the most popular alcoholic beverage. This observation may be associated with the very important millennial generation that seems to have turned slightly more towards wine. This trend may be challenged however in the coming months by the rapidly developing craft beer industry which is offering a greater variety of styles than ever before.
I look forward to change and I see it in the acceptance of many of our millennial wine lovers for Virginia wines. For so many years I have known people that I have met at wine tastings, festivals and classes who have not taken Virginia seriously. I am happy to say that this is changing and people are beginning to recognize and accept Virginia wines as world class.
My old Virginia Wine Journal that we published many years ago had as its motto “Virginia Wine, History In The Making.” Some things never change!
Roy Williams is professor emeritus in Old Dominion University's chemistry department. Write to him at email@example.com.