- The first part will describe the key characteristics of the Millennial generation.
- The second part will then proceed to a discussion of the relevant evidence regarding the relationship between Millennials and wine consumption.
- the essay will then discuss the relationship between Millennials and wine labels, which will also shed broader light on the general consumption patterns of Millennials.
- Finally, the essay will reflect on the somewhat philosophical question of whether Millennials are being pretentious in their consumption of wine, or whether there is real sincerity in their enjoyment of the stuff.
Key characteristics of the millennial generation
Millennials primarily consist of the generation that is currently in its 20s or early 30s. Solomon has delineated some of the key traits of the Millennial generation from the perspective of someone trying to market to them. These include: taking technology for granted, socializing in both real life and the Internet, a love of adventure, and an interest in the values underlying the purchases they are making.
Millennials, for example, may be quite likely to be willing to spend more money on a product if has been produced in accordance with fair trade practices and/or embodies other worthy ethical values. This is also related to the fact that many members of the Millennial generation, technologically savvy as they are, tend to get along well within the contemporary economy and achieve at least some reasonable level of financial stability. On the other hand, though, many also came of adult working age during the recent economic recession, which continues to have effects on their levels of employment.
In terms of their relationships, Millennials seem to delay marriage relative to previous generations but still take their social and romantic commitments quite seriously:
“while millennials are waiting to put a ring on it, many are in committed relationships. About 9.2 percent of millennials cohabit, compared with 5.8 percent of Gen X-ers. And 24 percent of now-married millennials say they bought a home with their current spouse before tying the knot” (paragraph 11).
This suggests that in general, the Millennials have diminished regard for the traditional institutions of mainstream society, but that they are nevertheless a highly sociable bunch who deeply value their social relationships. This fits with insights about how best to market to Millennials. It also gives some suggestion as to why this generation apparently loves wine so much. On that note, it will be appropriate now to turn to a discussion of Millennials and wine consumption.
The Millennials and wine consumption
The research evidence indicates that the Millennials drink a lot of wine. This is how Haffner, for example, has summarized some of the findings in this regard:
“The report found that millennials, defined as the 79 million Americans ages 21 to 38, drank 159.6 million cases of wine in 2015—an average of two cases per person. Researchers looked at all ages of ‘high frequency’ drinkers, those who drink several times per week, and found that millennials made up 30 percent of those imbibers” (paragraph 5).
It was also found that Millennials actually consume 42 percent of all the wine within the United States. These are clearly remarkable findings; and they indicate that for one reason or another, the Millennial generation clearly has a strong affinity for the consumption of wine.
These findings regarding wine consumption tend to clash with some of the existing stereotypes regarding the Millennial generation. As Blakemore has somewhat humorously put the matter:
“Somehow, Millennials . . . have become much-maligned. Millennial haters cite their penchant for living in their parents’ basements and the smartphones seemingly fused to their hands as reasons to dismiss the demographic. Mock the Millennials’ habits if you like, but don’t assume that they don’t appreciate life’s finer pleasures” (paragraph 1).
Wine, of course, has always been counted as a key member (and one of the oldest) of that class of fine pleasures; and the fact that the Millennials consume wine at the levels that they do strongly suggests that the negative stereotypes that often surround the Millennial generation do not do justice to the full complexity of the generation’s overall personality profile. When the average older person thinks of Millennials, wine is probably not one of the first things that comes to his mind. The evidence, however, suggests that wine is in fact an important part of the lives of the many of the members of the Millennial generation.
Moreover, the fact that the members of the Millennial generation are such avid consumers of wine has also had significant implications for the wine industry as a whole, for the simple reason that an industry always pays close attention to its key demographics of consumers. To quote Blakemore again:
“As Millennials continue to swipe right on wine, they’re changing the way the industry works. Millennials have inspired and made everything from maps that help track where grapes were grown to wine in cans. 22-to-34 year olds aren’t just wine consumers—they’re wine influencers” (paragraph 5).
In short, the Millennials consume wine at such a rate that the wine industry itself is in the process of changing as a result of it. This is also related to the fact that the Millennials are often adept at using technology and social media in order to make consumption an increasingly participatory and interactive behavior.
The Millennials and wine labels
The relevant research on the subject at hand addresses not just the consumption of wine by Millennials, but also the relationship between Millennials and wine labels—that is, the way in which wine products are marketed, especially with respect to the words and images found on the bottles themselves. According to a blogger,
“when surveyed, Millennials regard eye-catching designs as the most important factors for package design (including wine). Wineries must therefore use the label design in order to increase sales to Millennials, of which will be the largest consumers of their wines should they be successful” (paragraph 7).
This dovetails with findings into Millennials’ feelings about brand loyalties and affinities which suggest that Millennials tend to identify strongly with the companies that they support and the brands that they consume. It would seem that a flashy label on the wine bottle is one key way in which wine producers can make an emotional impact on the prospective Millennial wine buyer and cause him to feel identified with the specific brand that he is consuming.
Likewise, the research conducted by Larson has indicated that
“millennials prefer wine labels that are brightly colored, less traditional, and more graphically focused. Further, millennials prefer wines that feature creative brand names and decorative or sans-serif typefaces” (paragraph 2).
The implication is that if wine merchants would like to achieve greater market penetration with the Millennial generation and beat out their competitors for the attention and money of the members of this generation, a good advertising technique would be to design their wine labels in accordance with these parameters. This emphasis on wine labels, however, dialectically calls attention to the fact that Millennials seem to be paying almost as much attention to the actual bottles themselves as to the contents of the bottles.
This raises an important question: namely, to what extent do Millennials truly appreciate the wine that they are drinking, and to what extent is it all more a matter of self-image? This is the question that will be taken up in the following section of the present essay.
Reflection: Pretentiousness versus sincerity
In many reflections on the Millennial generation, the members of the generation have been excoriated for their perceived pretentiousness. A blogger named Robbie, for example, has pointed out that two-thirds of Millennials are not even aware of the fact that they actually are Millennials, and then proceeded to somewhat rudely state the following:
“If people were quick to criticize themselves they would have to work to fix those defects, and that’s time that could be much better spent glorifying themselves on social media. You mean to tell me that the most narcissistic, self-absorbed demographic of society chooses not to identify themselves with those characteristics? Absolutely stunning” (paragraphs 3-4).
While put in unusually harsh language, this quote nonetheless captures a popular perception of the Millennials as a narcissistic, self-obsessed generation that lacks even the slightest modicum of real self-awareness.
If this premise is accepted, then one could wonder about whether the Millennials’ apparent love of wine is in fact the real thing, or whether it has more to do with the self-image (and accompanying self-glorification) of being a high-class wine drinker. This would partly explain, for example, for Millennials seem to so highly value cool and flashy labels on their wine bottles.
One would think that for people who truly appreciate the wine itself, such gimmicks would be more or less irrelevant, given that they would primarily be paying attention to the actual sensory experience of drinking the wine itself. Indeed, from angle of the uncharitable perspective expressed by blogger Robbie, one could even wonder whether most Millennials even really like wine at all, or whether they are just more or less infatuated with the symbolic status of wine and what they believe it says about them to be drinkers of it.
On the other hand, however, the Millennials’ love of wine could also be associated with their search for a kind of new sincerity. This is the kind of ethos that Turner, for example, has suggested with his call
“a pragmatic romanticism unhindered by ideological anchorage . . . defined as the mercurial condition between and beyond irony and sincerity, naivety and knowingness, relativism and truth, optimism and doubt” (paragraph 8).
This kind of ethos, is perhaps exemplified by works of art such as the recent film Hail, Caesar! In the end, perhaps there is nothing so wrong with being attracted to wine for primarily symbolic reasons, as may be the case with the Millennial generation. Wine has been invoked symbolically, and perhaps most powerfully, as far back as the Bible itself, with its scene of the communion meal.
In this context, whether Millennials are enjoying wine in a pretentious way is perhaps less important than the question of what exactly they may be searching for even if they were, at least initially, enjoying wine in a pretentious way. Wine is symbolically associated with conviviality and special social occasions; and the Millennials clearly care about such things. Caring about wine as well may then just be the logical extension of this constellation of values. As this the case, it would perhaps be better to refrain from condemning Millennials for their obvious excesses of narcissism, and instead focus on what appears to be an inherent, even if largely unconscious, search for new values.
In summary, the present essay has consisted of a discussion of the relationship between the Millennial generation and wine/wine labels. An important point that has been made here is that the Millennials clearly love their wine, and that they are especially drawn to brands with attractive wine labels. There may a great deal of symbolism in the Millennials’ love of wine, and this is probably best understood as hovering on the border between pretention and sincerity.
Becca. “Millennials: The Flashier the Label, the Better.” The Academic Wino. 6 Oct. 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. .
Blakemore, Erin. “Millennials Drink More Wine than Anyone Else.” Smithsonian.com. 17 Feb. 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. .
Hafner, Josh. “Study: Millennials Drink Nearly Half of All Wine in the U.S.” USA Today. 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. .
Larson, Annie. “Generation Yine: The Millennial Generation and Wine Label Trends.” California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. 2012. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. .
Raphelson, Samantha. “Amid the Stereotypes, Some Facts about Millennials.” NPR. 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. .
Robbie. “I Know This May Come as a Surprise, but 66% of Millennials Don’t Think They Are Millennials.” Unsportmanlike Conduct. 17 May 2015. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. .
Solomon, Micah. “2015 Is the Year of the Millennial Customer: 5 Key Traits These 80 Million Consumers Share.” Forbes. 29 Dec. 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2016. .
Turner, Luke. “Metamodernist Manifesto.” Metamodernism.org. 2011. Web. 11 Mar, 2016. .