JustJess, Millennials, and the Future of Wine Jessica Altieri’s wine swishing online alter ego JustJess is the host, Certified Sommelier, and founder of web video site WineChannelTV, www.winechanneltv.tv an innovative site that is a smart yet casual nod towards the Millennial Generation of wine consumers. Featuring a ton of fun yet information packed videos about wine, wine tasting, and wine pairing, Altieri’s site and others like it signify a surge in wine enthusiasm among the twenty and thirtysomething set, and these “Millennials” have an interest in and influence on wine that is unlikely to waver anytime soon. Many are predicting that this will encourage wine makers to explore new techniques, blends, and styles of winemaking as the industry seeks to appeal to a generation that is expected to control more wealth than any group before them. Websites like Altieri’s are a great way to get Millennial attention – this group spends a lot of time web surfing for information and frequently purchases wine online. These sites are so successful with the Millennial set because they are not only directed at the demographic, but are also often run by a member of the Millennial Generation; in winechannelTV’s case, that’s Altieri herself. Her site has cleverly done away with traditional wine ratings which were often deliberately difficult to decipher in order to be intentionally exclusive. Instead, her video site favors entertaining content and opportunities for social interaction – exactly what appeals to her generation. Millennials’ Buying Power The Millennial Generation is estimated to have anywhere between 70 and 100 million members total, depending on which birth years are used as cutoff dates. An estimated 20 to 50 million members of the generation have yet to reach the legal drinking age, which means their influence on the wine industry will only grow over the next few decades. Millennials are the first generation in some thirty years to show a real fervor for wine, rivaling the much heralded Baby Boomer wine enthusiasm, and Millennials have continued to buy a lot of wine, even as the recession has many in older generations pinching pennies: in 2008, Millennials are given credit for an almost 50% increase in wine consumption. The wine industry is correctly looking toward the Millennials to buoy them through a tough economy. Millennials have a propensity to dislike traditional “slick” advertising campaigns, and tend to get their recommendations for new wines through word of mouth. This means the wine industry must come up with the types of products that will prompt a good round of buzz – exciting new blends, obscure techniques. The Millennial buyer wants a unique wine tasting experience and more unusual and exciting blends; Millennials also rate varietals as the most important factor in a wine purchase, instead of origin, unlike their Baby Boomer parents. Industry insiders believe that this will shift the focus of wine making from emphasizing origin to concentrating on experimentation and creating
interesting and sensational products. It will be the wine makers who adapt to this new paradigm that will really thrive – those who ignore Millennials do so at their own peril.