Some Encouraging Words about Wine’s Future

cheersThere is a lot of gloom and doom in the wine industry these days. If heat, drought, and fire weren’t enough, there is also the constant drumbeat of worries about boomers aging out of the wine market and millennials and younger folks not picking up the slack.

But sommelier Kristin Olszewski wine director at Gigi’s in Hollywood, founder and CEO of canned wine company Nomadica, has a different perspective.

I think the wine industry is very scared. The investment community is really down on wine as a category — they think it’s dying, they think young consumers are switching to spirits. But I am optimistic that wine is here to stay, and is having a resurgence with millennials and Gen Z. We are trending toward knowing what is in our food and there’s no better beverage for that than wine. It’s grapes, water, yeast, and time. Do you want lower ABV than that cocktail? Great, drink wine. Something that pairs really well with food? Great, drink wine. Something with a story behind it? Wine. It’s a living beverage. As the palate skews more bright, acid-driven with the rise in popularity of things like kombucha, wine will have a big resurgence in the larger market.

That is good news if it’s true. It is an apriori argument, as far as I can tell, not based on empirical evidence. According to Silicon Valley Bank’s State of the U.S. Wine Industry 2022 report, only 20% of millennials drink wine and the industry expects a 20% decrease in wine consumption over the next 10 years, largely because of the drinking habits of millennials.

But perhaps we’re looking in the wrong place for wine’s future. There is no doubt that younger generations are not drinking fine wine or pouring over scores in the Wine Spectator. But according to this article in Pix, millennials are driving the canned wine market, the natural wine market, and recent increases in the purchase of sparkling wines which are selling well.

And Olszewski’s logic is sound. Younger generations are allegedly concerned with environmental issues, healthy eating and drinking, and stories behind the products they consume. Wine is better positioned  on all of those issues to appeal to younger consumers when compared to spirits and beer, although it isn’t clear the industry has fully recognized this potential.

Perhaps what we are seeing is not a decline in interest in wine but a shift in how and why wine is consumed, a shift that isn’t yet reflected in production decisions or marketing campaigns.

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