Monday, March 13, 2023

Why young people apparently don’t drink wine these days: a summary

If you haven’t been reading about the dire forecasts for the future of the wine industry, or listening to podcasts about it, then you must currently be living under a rock. The sales data do not currently look good, and there seems to be no immediate reason why they should improve, in either the short term or the long term.

The basic issue seems to be quite straightforward. The current market is declining globally, and no new one is appearing to replace it. So, why are modern people not choosing to drink wine? Let's summarize the situation here, in this blog post. (Note: I am not discussing alcohol in general, but wine in particular — Why not choose wine as an alcoholic drink?)

The Baby Boomer generation (now aged 55+) have often drunk wine as a normal part of their culture; but they are (sadly) starting to drop off, and so their group wine drinking is declining. Each new generation seems to reject much of the culture of their parents and grandparents, and so the persons from the subsequent Generation X (age 40-54), Millennial (age 25-39) and Generation Z (< 25 years old) are apparently not all that interested in wine — apparently their uncles drank it, and so they don't. When you combine these two patterns, you potentially have a serious market problem.

There are potentially two issues here: 1) there are reasons why non-wine consumers avoid wine, and 2) there are reasons why wine consumers avoid particular wines.

If we briefly take the second one first, we can briefly note that people these days may be drinking less wine but of better quality. That is, it is the low-end commodity market that is suffering the most, while the high-end premium market may even be increasing. For example, you can read about this two-part idea here:

Another reason that is commonly given, as noted by Linda Ovington and her colleagues, is that much wine has too many calories. However, this applies to lots of alcoholic drinks.

French wine consumption since the 80s

Moving on to issue 1), one of the classic examples of the current reduction in overall wine consumption concerns the French (Young France isn’t drinking wine) — also see the graph above:
French citizens remain some of the world's leading consumers of wine, drinking about 55 liters annually, according to a recent study carried out by the University of Montpellier. That's almost six cases a person. But that number has declined more than 50 percent since 1980, when the French drank an average of 120 liters. The drop is chiefly due to changes at the dining room table. The French tradition of drinking wine on a daily basis at mealtimes is practically broken. Perhaps more important for the future, the next generation of French wine drinkers is not learning to consume wine at the dining room table. That's leading to a big change. Roughly 50 percent of young people in France never drink wine, according to the Montpellier report, and less than 10 percent are regular consumers. The rest limit their consumption to two to three times a month.
Sadly, this ongoing trend does not apply only to France. For example, the most frequently cited report for the USA, instead, is from the Silicon Valley Bank *, as discussed here:

This SVB report also emphasizes that the issue isn’t necessarily with premium wines or older demographics — expensive wines continue to sell, but bottles that cost less than $15 are not doing so well (The paradox of the US wine industry: falling volumes, yet more regular drinkers).

So, what reasons are being provided by the younger generations for not drinking wine, in particular. Here, is one set of suggestions (Why young people don’t drink wine), which you can make of what you will:
  • They don’t drink wine because they are not well informed.
  • They don’t drink wine because there are not places which encourage them to do that. In general they are places that smell like they are expensive, elitist and look like they have certain snobbery.
  • They don’t drink wine because of the price.
  • They don’t drink wine because it has disappeared from the majority of the household tables.
  • Finally, they don’t drink wine because their palates (so they say!) are not made for all tastes.
The report from Linda Ovington and her colleagues also lists some reasons, as shown in the table below. The key item here (as highlighted) seems to be that it is hard to actually select a wine, as also noted by Dwight Furrow (The unsolvable problem):
This is an unsolvable problem. The diversity of wine is what makes it intimidating; it’s also what makes it interesting. You can make wine less intimidating only by making it less interesting.

Reasons for not drinking wine

The obvious discussion about dealing with this issue must involve changing the way wine is marketed, for example to something like this (To reach different ages, wineries should try a different marketing approach):
  • If you don’t care to understand more about the audience you are trying to reach, then you will miss the mark every time.
  • One thing to understand, when it comes to marketing, the secret is not merely selling a product or service. It's about tapping into customer emotions.
  • You cannot talk to Millennials like you talked to their parents. This might be a part of the problem that the wine industry has had as a whole.
  • The wine industry has always assumed that younger generations would naturally increase their consumption of wine as they grew older, but the truth is that it’s not happening. Wine used to be seen as a premium option, but now many alcoholic beverages, including beer, can also be seen as a status symbol.
  • Millennials and Gen Z are also more likely to be health-conscious and seek drinks that fit into their lifestyle, like hard seltzers, leading them further away from consuming wine.
  • Where wine used to be seen as a healthy alcohol, it has been replaced in the minds of consumers, thanks to marketing, by hard seltzers and other nonalcoholic drinks that tout better-for-you ingredients.
There are suggested actions, of course, which you should read about (e.g. 13 things Millennial and Gen Z wine pros say will reach young drinkers; How the wine industry aims to make wine lovers out of Gen X, Z and Millennials) although over recent years there have been a number of failed attempts to engage younger drinkers (Selling a younger generation on wine). Furthermore, it is important to remember that age group cohorts do not necessarily represent cohesive meaningful segments of the market (Younger people are turning away from wine — it's caused by everyone worrying about younger people turning away from wine).

Finally, there is also, of course, the suggested response of reducing viticulture, as discussed here:It is a simple argument: if people are drinking less wine, then we should be making less wine for them. This does, indeed, bode ill for the future global wine industry.

* This bank who funded this has just been closed down: Silicon Valley Bank is shut down by regulators in biggest bank failure since global financial crisisSilicon Valley Bank crisis: everything you need to know about SVB Financial as regulators shut down the bank. Rob McMillan, who compiled the wine reports, has this to say about the future: Silicon Valley Bank: what comes next?.


  1. I've heard way to often that you can't market wine to millennials like you did to their parents and grandparents?


    Humans are human and since they've been around, they respond to the same thing. How it is presented is what is the difference. The fact is that wine has NEVER been correctly marketed. I'm a baby boomer and wine marketing was as big a turn off when I was the millennial's age as it is now. So, what's the difference? The wine industry doesn’t talk “to” people. They talk “at” them. Humans don’t like to be talked at.

    Here is how I would promote wine. First. Create curiosity. Then present the facts. That’s the only way the Millennials and their parents will even consider trying wine.

    Just the facts. No syrupy words, no obnoxious tasting notes.

    “Wine has been around for 8,000 years. Maybe you’d like to know why”
    “Wine has been part of every culture in every millennium since it was first discovered.” Hmmmm
    “The great scientist, Louis Pasteur, called wine “the most hygienic drink in the world.” Huh, like really?
    “You’re not going to like most wines. So, find the merchant who will give you something you will.
    “Your taste is different than anybody’s. Follow that instead of theirs.”
    “There are NO additives in wine. No winery “adds” something that isn’t already there. Sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t give the winemaker all they need to make a good wine. So, they add a little more.”

    The problem is finding the funds for this campaign. The Wine Institute is controlled by Gallo. The ATF is just a collection agency and WSWA is only in it for the money and they don’t care where it comes from.

    But, that doesn't negate the cogency of my argument. The wine industry has to get their heads out of their asses and put out coherent, interesting messages that talk about the facts, but I'm afraid that's too far beyond their comprehension of the problem.

  2. “There are NO additives in wine. No winery “adds” something that isn’t already there. Sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t give the winemaker all they need to make a good wine. So, they add a little more.” ""wake up""
    Except maybe , PVPP, Plant protein, Silica. Potassium Caseinate, Carboxymethyl cellulose, Gum Arabic, Potassium polyaspartate, Dimethylpyrocarbonate . Just to mention a few of the 100's allowed by the TTB (formally BATF) Heaven forbid they should have to put it on the label though