Time for wine
Sept./Oct. 2011 California Country magazine
Story by Steve Adler
Photos by Matt Salvo and Scott Stebner
Millennial generation finds a new beverage of choice
Tracie and Steven Podsednik, both 29, are wine enthusiasts. Marketing researchers note that members of their generation—the millennials—tend to prefer wine over the beer or spirits favored by young adults from previous generations.
Wine plays a big role in Steven and Tracie Podsednik's social calendars. For the 29-year-old West Sacramento residents, that can mean anything from group wine-tasting tours on the weekends to their own invention of "Wine and Wii Night," when friends come over for an evening of food, wine and video games.
"We have everyone bring a dish for a potluck and a bottle or two of wine. We have Wii Sports World, so we will have dinner, play games, converse and, of course, enjoy the wine," explained Steven Podsednik, an emergency medical technician. "It is a lot of fun to see the different wines that people bring from the wineries they have visited, and it gives us an opportunity to try some new wines that we may not be familiar with."
The Podsedniks are representative of the 55 million members of the "millennial generation" (21 to 34) who have reached the legal drinking age. They are also part of a quiet revolution taking place in America as young adults gravitate more toward wine as the beverage of choice, rather than the beer or spirits that were favored by young adults from previous generations.
"There's a wine to fit my every mood," said Tracie Podsednik, a high-school Spanish teacher. "If it is hot and I want to sit outside and enjoy the sun, I like to pour a light, fruity white. At the end of the night, curled up on the couch with Steven, I love to enjoy a nice, rich red."
With 3,400 wineries throughout California, young wine enthusiasts like the Podsedniks have plenty of local options—and a stroll down the wine aisle at their neighborhood supermarket proves the point. Shelf after shelf offers an almost overwhelming array of wine varieties and labels from which to choose. The traditional labels for established brands are still to be found, but challenging them for shelf space are newer varieties such as malbec and pinot gris, many of them decked out with colorful labels specifically targeting younger adults.
Brands with catchy names including Sledgehammer, Cupcake, Red Truck and Big House are the wines of choice for many millennials. According to data compiled by the Nielsen Beverage Alcohol Team, these young adults—the children of baby boomers—show a strong interest in wine as they gravitate away from beer purchases. In fact, more than half of the millennials who purchase alcohol identify themselves as wine drinkers.
Like others from their generation, Tracie and Steven Podsednik use technology such as electronic tablets and smartphones to research, discuss and buy new wines. They say catchy names and colorful labels sometimes influence their purchasing decisions.
Seth Kweller, 24, agrees with that assessment.
"Definitely the millennial generation that is out of college tends to bring more wine than beer or spirits when they go to parties," he said. Kweller recently earned a degree in agricultural business marketing with an emphasis on wine and viticulture. He is now a district manager for Regal Wine Co. in Orange County.
"Wine labels have changed drastically," he said. "Marketing has become very well aware of consumer trends and many of these wines are targeted to the younger generation and the non-typical wine drinkers."
The top three factors that influence a consumer's purchase of a particular kind of wine, Kweller said, are a friend's recommendation, having tasted the wine before and the appeal of the label.
"I think the trend is going more toward wine. Wine is also more prominent on television and in the movies and people are just becoming more aware of it," he said. "I love wine. It is an everyday occasion for me."
Seth Kweller, photographed earlier in his career when he worked at a wine-tasting bar, says millennials often purchase wines recommended by friends. The 24-year-old is now a district manager for a California-based wine distributor.
Tracie Podsednik said that while some wine marketers still view millennials as "kids who don't really 'get' wine or who can't really appreciate it," most recognize the level of sophistication young wine enthusiasts bring to the marketplace.
"We have started getting into wine earlier than past generations, but we know what we like, we appreciate the wine and the process, and we have cash," she said.
Steve Adler is a reporter for California Country. He can be reached at 800-698-FARM or email@example.com.