Wine challenges 3-13-2024

While wine has been an integral part of civilization for at least 8,000 years, it also is subject to the waxes and wanes of fashion. What is rad and fav today can be tomorrow’s meh. Think merlot. Think white zinfandel. Think Milli Vanilli.

In the 1990s and 2000s wine enjoyed the intoxicating euphoria of being the next big thing. Wine sales grew in double digits. Wine replaced beer as the swell’s sip of choice. The Mediterranean diet suggested wine, especially red wine, was good for you, heart healthy, not just part of the good life but part of a longer life. Baby Boomers were all in to the Elysium zeitgeist of wine as the wonder elixir. Oh, those were the days. Those were the daze.

Every boom busts. Every bubble bursts. And so with wine in the 2020s. Boomers (59-77+) not only grow older and our consumption declines, we are dying off. That was inevitable, even if we foolishly thought ourselves bullet proof and forever the center of attention.

Boomers still dominate the higher end of the wine market. Wine sales may decline, but wine prices are up, creating a sort of balance. We drank Blue Nun, Mateus, and Hearty Burgundy in our salad days. Now, thanks to social security checks and 401Ks, we slurp Jordans and vintage Left Bank Bordeaux. But those days are actuarially numbered—for my fellow Boomers, for wineries.

So, what about Gen X (43-58), Millennials (27-42), and Gen Z (21-26)? Gen X, sandwiched between the larger demographics of Boomer and Millennial, appears to have overtaken Boomers in amount and quality of the wine they consume, but that likely is ephemeral. Millennials and Gen Z loom on the time line inevitabilities, and there the wine world worries.

Millennials are the largest and wealthiest consumer category after Boomers and their predilections, as fads and fashions are wont to do, stray from their progenitor’s penchants. Spirits have overtaken wine in consumer consumption statistics. Millennials fret about environmental impacts, female and minority participation, sustainability, social justice. It is not just the Robert Parker score—and he no longer is tasting and posting scores, BTW—but it is the whole penumbra around wine making that influences Mellennial’s buying proclivities.

And this does not even touch upon the neo-prohibitionists who assert almost any alcohol intake is harmful to health. After heady years of tailwinds, the wine world today is buffeted by headwinds of change. As it has experienced for 8,000 years and counting. Watch this space.

Last round: A group of earsplitting toddlers is called a tantrum. Wine time.