How Wine is Making Itself Over for Millennials
A less pretentious approach to wine attracts interest from a younger generation of drinkers.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
What will you bring to your next backyard barbecue: a six pack of beer or a bottle of wine?
If you're in your twenties, you may be more inclined to opt for wine. Last year, beer sales were down over 2 percent while wine was up 1.5 percent, according to data from market research firm Nielsen. Nielson also reported that ros sales were "out of this world" in 2017.
Like many trends, the growing interest in wine can be attributed to a convergence of several individual trends. Even one of the oldest beverages in the world is ripe for innovation. Winemakers, producers and marketers world have started to cater to a new generation of drinkers who are less concerned with tradition, but who still care about quality. Here are a few trends that are shifting how Americans buy and drink wine.
Single serving wine
Just because wine is typically packaged in bottles doesn't mean it always must be so. A 750-milliliter bottle is heavy. They're also impractical depending on the circumstance. Music festivals and beaches don't pair well with glass bottles.
Enter canned wines. Though pricier by the ounce, canned wine is quickly gaining momentum. It's convenient and portable. Toss a can or two in your backpack, and you're on your way. No corkscrew or cups needed.
Nomadica is an L.A.-based canned wine company that's breaking all of wine's stuffy rules. Their 250mL cans are about one third of a bottle. A six-pack of their Pink River Ros -- Grapefruit and freeze dried strawberries balanced with fresh, crisp, minerality -- costs $42.
Nomadica company doesn't own vineyards. Instead, CEO Emma Toshack partners with winemakers to develop wines and sommeliers to curate them. The Instagram-worthy cans are designed by street artists and illustrators.
Thinking outside the bottle
Don't dismiss boxed wine either. It's come a long way since Franzia. Better quality wine is now being packaged in boxes.
Though it might not look as elegant on your table, boxed wine tends to be far more economical than individual bottles. A 3-liter box holds the same volume as four bottles of wine. It lasts longer, too. Bottles should be consumed within a day or two, as oxidation will begin to break down the wine. But boxed wine (or more accurately, the bag inside the box) is sealed from air. They stay fresh for up to six weeks say sommelier and winemaker Jayme Henderson who writes for The Kitchn.
Bota Box, a beloved boxed wine among millennials, costs roughly $20 per 3-liter box, also touts its eco-friendliness. Bota's website boasts its 100 percent recyclable box, which creates 85 percent less landfill waste than traditional glass packages. Their Instagram sometimes includes handy ideas to re-use the boxes, such as making them into iPhone speakers.
The Washington Post's wine columnist Dave McIntyre predicted earlier this year that we'll be seeing more boxed wine, even though many wine snobs still turn their nose at it. "We need to get over the stigma of box wine. It's also great for parties, tailgates, beach gatherings and other occasions -- as long as the wine is good."
Exclusive, but not snobby
You no longer need pop into a wine shop for a quality bottle. More supermarkets are getting into the wine game and bringing their own private labels to the shelves. This trend began with Trader Joe's famously cheap Charles Shaw, also lovingly known as Two Buck Chuck.
Chains such as Whole Foods, Costco, Aldi and Lidl have begun selling wines exclusively available in their stores. This allows them to purchase the wine in bulk, offering better margins. Generally, these wines end up being less expensive. According to a recent Nielsen report, private labels are growing faster than ever.
The private label wines that have started hitting the shelves aren't just cheap. Supermarket chains are trying to appeal to consumers who care about quality bottles. Aldi's $8 ros was named one of the best in the world. Lidl began bringing its private label wine to shelves in May 2017, many of which have since won several awards.
Lidl's collection of wines is curated by Master of Wine Adam Lapierre. Master of Wine is one of the highest credentials in the wine world; Lapierre is the only Master of Wine in the grocery industry and one of 350 in the world. He hand selects every bottle. "In fact, Adam has tasted more than 10,000 wines to choose the 120 bottles he ultimately selected for our shelves," says Will Harwood, director of communications Lidl US. Lidl's wine ranges from $7 to $20, so it's still relatively affordable.
What do these trends have in common? They take into account how people realistically consume wine.
It's rarely when eating a five-course meal by candlelight. Sometimes it's a few days after you've opened it while you're cooking dinner. At an impromptu gathering with friends. On a random Thursday. Wine need not be pretentious, and neither should how it's packaged or sold.