Today is a very special day for a wine marketing nerd like me, and it comes but once a year. I eagerly anticipate it for months and it shapes what I do for the year to come. It’s the day the Wine Market Council and Nielsen yearly report comes out. And today’s the day for me. Hooray!

I should say, before I jump into my favorite bits (like I said: nerd), that there are some very interesting data in general and I highly recommend anyone interested check out the presentation once it is publicly available on the WMC site. Because I focus on millennials and wine, that’s what I’m covering here.


Let’s get to the fun stuff.

This year, I’m guessing due to the sheer numbers and varying life-stages of the group, they have split the millennial demographic into two parts: Younger Millennials – ages 21 – 25 in the year 2011, and Older Millennials – current ages 26 – 34 in the year 2011 (of which I am a member). This makes it more difficult to compare the demo as a group to other generations in terms of numbers or buying power. However, most of the data is in terms of percentages – I suppose we can be thankful for bringing to light the different consumer behaviors of millennials at different times of their lives. It also makes things a bit less dramatic (and anyone who has seen me speak knows that I love the dramatic). Sigh.

But I did find some drama, so let’s start with that:

Data from Wine Market Council

Millennials, and particularly the older millennials, are most likely to experiment with a brand they’ve never heard of. Many wineries like to complain about this – these complaints can be summed up by the following quote from John Gillespie of the Wine Market Council in Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s blog: “So much for brand loyalty.” I will say, however, that these numbers are specifically referencing trying MORE wines. Being brand loyal and trying new wines aren’t mutually exclusive, are they?

This information should give hope to every winery out there thinking about putting a new product on the market. It’s exciting information and it’s the reason why I spend most of my time now on brand development and launches. It should also give hope to smaller wineries without the multi-million dollar budgets of the big guns: if you can capture our interest, we’re likely to give you a shot. And whether we like it or we hate it, we’re likely to tell our 900 closest friends on Facebook about it. If you want millennials to drink your wine, put a little effort into it and it may well pay off.

Here’s another fun fact that shouldn’t surprise anyone:

Importance of wine labels by demographic

Wine labels matter. Period. Now, attempting to define “fun and contemporary” is nigh on impossible, but I think it would be safe to assume that this could mean “non-traditional.” Let’s face it. Design matters to millennial consumers. Apple, Ace Hotels, Dwell Magazine – these brands are not ONLY for millennials by any means (well, maybe Ace), but design is top priority for these brands, and these brands have top priority for millennials.  Feel free to do the math. If we spend money on something, we expect it to be beautiful and often times we expect social purchases like wine to act as a public reflection of our tastes and personality. This latter expectation is no different than any other generation (if arguably more intense due to our intrinsic personal branding tendencies); however, our personalities and what we are reflecting out to our peers IS different.

Here’s an interesting piece of information that may surprise you:

Importance of wine reviews for millennials

Well, looky here. Wine reviews are important to millennials. I’d be VERY interested to see what the definition of “wine review” was – whether it meant a traditional review from a published expert, a peer review, or a user generated review. In any case, let’s assume this means published expert reviews. Isn’t it interesting that the wine-specific publications that print these reviews seem to have no interest whatsoever in making their media more appealing to the millennial demographic? I mean, I’m sure they’re interested in taking millennials’ money, but the publications with the “most respected” reviewers are also some of the worst offenders in the stodgy-old-boys-blazer-and-ascot-wine-is-for-fancy-people category I can think of. Seems like based on this info and millennials’ ever-growing disposable income, they could be making bank with a few simple changes.

I wonder who these millennials see as industry experts, anyway. Is it Gary V.? Saveur Mag? Real Simple? Robert Parker? Steve Heimoff?  I don’t think people will ever stop looking to experts for recommendations on wine; however, it’s my personal prediction that if magazines like Spectator, Advocate, and Enthusiast don’t attempt to reach this demo, that we’ll see new “experts” pop up to take their place in publications that millennials consider more “relevant” to their lives. You can keep the two cents.

Here’s another juicy tidbit:

Wine consumed by millennials per sitting

Oh, you’re not surprised that people in their 20s and early 30s consume more wine per sitting than other demos? Yeah, me neither. And this is a good thing. They purchase more wine per occasion.

I swear, the next winemaker/owner/marketer, etc. that complains to me about how they don’t like millennials in their winery because we drink too much gets an honorary title of Asshat from me. THEY ARE BUYING MORE OF YOUR WINE PER SITTING. Oh, that’s good, but you would prefer them to buy more of your wine per sitting in a restaurant or in your tasting room and NOT get drunk? Well, I suppose they’ll just buy 3 glasses and NOT drink them. YOU SELL WINE. WINE HAS ALCOHOL. ALCOHOL MAKES PEOPLE DRUNK. It’s true. Google it.

Anyway, now that that’s off my chest (phew), this is obviously good news for purveyors of wine.

So I’d like you to take a minute and look at 3 out of the last 4 slides. The ones with the bottom category that says “High End.” Go ahead, take a look.

Notice anything interesting about the overall numbers? Look again.

According to this data, the consumer behaviors of millennials, specifically older millennials, correspond to the consumer behaviors of the “High End” group. (“High End” being people that purchase $20+ wines monthly or more often.) Here’s some more data to illustrate this correlation:

Wine drinkers' Facebook membership


Wine drinkers' Twitter membership


Going to wine bars


Visiting wine websites

They all correlate. So does this mean that it’s the millennials that are the high end buyers? Not necessarily.

HOWEVER, it DOES tell us that millennials and high end buyers have many of the same consumer traits.  High end buyers seem to behave much the way millennials do as consumers.


By targeting these traits in millennials through your outreach and marketing, you are also targeting these traits in high end buyers.

Well isn’t that interesting?