Wine Market Council Finds Generational And Involvement “Gaps” Increasingly Pivotal To Industry

January 28, 2016
Detailing its annual findings on the state of the wine industry in New York earlier this week, the Wine Market Council said significant differences in buying habits across generations and the increasing importance of the high-frequency, highly-involved wine drinker are changing the face of the business.

Wine Market Council president John Gillespie noted that the number of high-frequency wine consumers—defined as those drinking wine at least several times a week—surged from 2000-2015, now accounting for 13% of all LDA adults and 35% of the wine-drinking population. And the level of sophistication and engagement among such devoted oenophiles continues to rise markedly. High-frequency wine drinkers are consuming 18% more now than they were two years ago, while occasional drinkers are consuming 8% less.

Moreover, high-end wine buyers—defined as those frequently reaching for bottles priced above $20 at retail—now account for 36% of the high-frequency drinking population, compared with just 21% a half-decade ago, mirroring ongoing gains at the premium end of the wine market. “All high-end buyers are also high-frequency wine drinkers,” Gillespie observed.

Turning to the impact of generational shifts, Gillespie added that 79 million members of the Millennial generation are now at legal drinking age, with the demographic outstripping the 75 million Baby Boomers. Millennials now comprise 36% of wine drinkers nationwide compared with Baby Boomers’ 34%, although the latter segment contains more of the highly-involved wine sophisticates aforementioned.

The Millennial bloc, with its famously nomadic tastes, has been showing a penchant for experimenting across numerous wine categories. In terms of domestic offerings, while California remains king, Millennials are far more likely than Baby Boomers to branch out to Washington-, Oregon- and New York-produced bottles, the Wine Market Council found. On the import side, Millennials are showing much more affinity for wines from France, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Greece and Argentina than their Baby Boomer forebears.

While catering to Millennial tastes will continue to be a prime objective for wine marketers, a still-younger generation is waiting in the wings. This month, the first members of what Gillespie called the iGeneration—which numbers 61 million people born from 1995–2009—attained legal drinking age, and will begin influencing the direction of the wine market in the years to come.