Wine Down

Hey everyone! I’m back! Sorry for that little two-week hiatus. I’ve had a lot going on between starting my new job, being an adjunct professor and (drumroll please), finishing my book! Yes, you heard that right – this girl is going to be a published author very soon! More to come on that though. That’s not what we’re talking about today. Today we’re discussion a topic near and dear to my heart – wine. 

Ah yes, wine. The versatile and delicious beverage choice – wine. Now first, I feel like I need to give more context as to my wine knowledge. Am I a sommelier? No. Have you ever watched that Netflix documentary Som? It’s insane. To be the highest level of sommelier, you have to do a blind taste test and pick not only the wine, but the vineyard and the year! Not only does that seem super impressive yet impossible, the entire documentary I just kept thinking how annoying it would be to go to dinner with one of these people as your friends. It feels like they would just suck the enjoyment right out of the process and be lecturing you the entire time on the grape and the process etc. No thank you. 

Borderline Wine Snob

But in saying that, I am probably a borderline wine snob. Not in price. I’m not one of those people that believes the more expensive the bottle, the better the wine. In fact, my favorite thing to do at a restaurant that has a sommelier is to ask them for the cheapest bottle that compliments our meals they they would recommend. I’m telling you, if you haven’t tried this – please do. Don’t be embarrassed, sommeliers like it! They put together the whole list by hand. This gives them the opportunity to introduce you to a “hidden gem” on the list and usually has an interesting story along with it. 

For example, this is how I discovered South African wines. A sommelier recommended a blend with grapes I’d never heard of, that was $60 for the bottle at most. Which, considering the mark-up at a restaurant, probably means you could buy this at Binny’s Liquor Depot for $15. But it was delicious! And it had a really cool story behind the name and the label and we’ll never forget it. You have to try it – next time you are at a fancy restaurant, try this tactic – and try something new! You won’t be disappointed. 

What I mean by a wine snob is that I do know enough about wine to make good decisions based on what I like and I’m not afraid to return it if it’s not to my liking. Yep, I’m that person. I will not suffer through a bad glass of wine – even if I ordered it. However, because of that – I have done my own homework to learn enough to avoid bad decisions a lot of time. I have my “safe bets” that 9 out of 10 times, I know won’t disappoint from a menu. Or, I ask for a taste if possible before I commit. 

I also do judge people that drink shitty wine past the age of 30. I’m sorry – but if you’re still buying Yellow Tail and you were born before 1992, it’s time to grow up. Any of those big brand ones actually – Yellow Tail, Meiomi, Barefoot, Cupcake – YUK. It’s gross and embarrassing for you to bring that to any get together where anyone knows anything about wine. Let me the friend that is telling you that when the rest of your friends haven’t said it before. Again, it’s not about price – I love finding a cheap bottle of good wine. Gimme a $10 bottle of Beaujolais from Whole Foods, I’m a happy gal. But these wines aren’t even that cheap, and they just aren’t good! 

How did I gain this knowledge? Well, from drinking, a lot. I love wine tastings, and like I mentioned before, I love asking sommeliers their advice. But wine tastings can be tricky – you can just focus on filling your glass continuously and walk away none the smarter. But I have a rule. I have to learn at least three things before I get drunk. It sounds silly, but this practice has helped me create my safe list which makes me more comfortable ordering at restaurants or buying new bottles at the store. 

My List of “Safe Bets”

Some of my safe bets you ask? Keep in mind, i like lighter-medium bodied, and dry wine. So if you’re like my mom and like “bold, oaky cabernet” or you like sweet wine – then this list isn’t for you. 

First, let’s talk Pinot Noir. If you love Pinot Noir like I do – safe bets are Oregon or French Pinot Noir. NOT California. Sorry for those Napa Lovers, but California produces a lot of great wine – but Pinot Noir is not one of them – at least not consistently enough to be considered a safe bet. Oregon on the other hand, like Willamette Valley – consistently really good Pinot Noir. And France – well, French wine in itself almost falls into a safe bet. They just know what they’re doing! 

If Pinot Noir is expensive and you want another option similar – then try Nebbiolo, Pinot Nero or Beaujolais – these are all good options and will have the same lighter-medium body as your Pinot Noir but are a little less common grape varieties and therefore can be less expensive on a menu. 

White wine from Greece – Greek white wine is almost never sweet. So if you want a dry, refreshing glass of white in the summer, then maybe try a Greek wine. Bonus – they’re usually much cheaper than France or Italy. 

Other white wines I would recommend trying – Chenin Blanc, Sancerre and blends from South Africa. 

Rose from Provence, France. Again with the French wine – but Rose from this region is that beautiful rose-gold color, is dry, refreshing and not too sweet. You’ll find brands like Whispering Angel or AIX – both solid choices. Also, sparkling rose is usually less sweet so when in doubt, maybe try the sparking version! 

And I’m starting to get into Cabernet Franc more – again, French Varieties. 

When It comes to Italian wines – in a lot of ways it’s hard to go wrong but I prefer the Piedmont Region which tends to produce lighter, dry reds. 

Why aren’t Millennials as interested in wine?  

Ok, now that I’m really in the mood for a glass of wine -let’s talk about the latest 2022 State of the Wine Industry Report was released and it shows Baby Boomers are outdrinking Millennials in wine by 2:1. The expectation is if the wine industry doesn’t do more to appeal to Millennials, the wine industry will see a decline by 20% once Boomers “sunset”. 20%! That’s a lot for any  industry. Now consider, the added challenges of the wine industry when it comes the changing weather patterns and global warming. 

Unlike Beer and Hard Seltzer which are made in controlled environments, wine is truly an art and science and completely dependent on the land and environment in which the vineyards grow. This matters so much to the quality of the wine. Consider my safe list – in a lot of cases, what made these wines safe, was the region. Provence, Willamette Valley, Piedmont – if there are issues with the environment that changes the soil and elements of these regions – that could be catastrophic.  

One of the big reasons Millennials aren’t buying into the wine industry as much as Boomers is because wine has been touted as a status symbol. Have you ever been to a Boomers house with a wine cellar? I have. And it’s a 30 minute ordeal as they show off their collection. Now don’t get me wrong, I would love a wine cellar. I would create one, put a chaise lounge in there with some surround sound and relax with a glass of wine and a good book. That would be my equivalent to she shed. But it would be for me – not to show off. 

Millennials have lived through two recessions and are less likely to pay too much out of pocket for a glass of wine as our older counterparts. We also care more about sustainability and diversity and the wine industry has some room to grow here. 

What’s next?

I have to say, when I read this, i was like – what? How is that possible that aren’t drinking as much? I think about my friends and we can put it down. We love our wine. And drink a lot of it. But then I remember, I”m an elder Millennial and there are quite a few Millennials that in our younger counterparts that don’t share the love of the grape. I don’t have the numbers behind this, but if I had to pick – I feel like younger Millennials version of wine is hard seltzer. 

It’s everywhere isn’t it? Everywhere! Could there be more brands that have hard seltzer now? It’s like every single beverage company has decided to jump on the train. And they’re good sometimes – like at the pool or on a summer day. They’re more portable than wine at a festival or at a park. But wine just has so much more variety to me. There’s this art of paring wine with food that changes the entire experience. You aren’t pairing black cherry hard seltzer with a course of food. 

Then I look at the craft beer movement. The craft beer movement has many parallels to wine. Both are created with a unique process, flavor profiles, varieties you name it. And Millennials are all about craft beer. So I wonder if the wine industry took a similar approach of focusing more on the makings and origins of the wine like craft beer and maybe that will drive greater connection to this generation? 

Wine has a special place is my heart. I have fond childhood memories of getting to sip some champagne during Christmas dinner to toast with the adults. I remember the good times of playing “Slap the Bag” with Franzia in college. I’ve loved learning about different regions and incorporating wineries into our travels to continue to expand my knowledge and explore new varieties. It’s crazy to me there’s such a gap between generations and my hope is that if there is a more focused effort by the wine industry to highlight the process and values behind these wineries, the popularity of wine with Millennials and generations to come will continue. Ironically, I think no matter what the messaging strategy is behind wine, it’s going to come down to our younger Millennials and GenZ’s efforts to save the environment that may be the make or break moment of the wine industry. Who would have thought? The same generations that threaten the future may be the ones that save it after all?

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