Aspen Times Weekly: A case for Millenials |

Aspen Times Weekly: A case for Millenials

by Kelly J. Hayes
People toasting champagne flutes
Getty Images/Polka Dot RF | Polka Dot RF

Here are some suggestions — red and white — for a half-case, all under $20:

d’Arenberg The Stump Jump $12

Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre from Chester Osborne, one of Australia’s iconic and most innovative winemakers.

Layer Cake Primitivo $13

The Italians call it Primitivo. We call it Zinfandel. Layer Cake calls it tasty.

Woop Woop Shiraz $14

There is so much wine from Australia that it is a great place for bargains. Woop Woop means “middle of nowhere.”

Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon $15

Washington wines are undervalued and underpriced. Try this Cab from the Horse Heaven Hills appellation.

Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2009 $10

Pinot from Chile. A steal of a deal.

Black Box Merlot (California) $18

Four bottles to the box. Drinkable and recyclable. The best deal in wine.

Infinite Monkey Theorem White Can $6

An Albarino in a can? A little sparkle in a Red Bull-sized can. A sipper from Ben Parsons.

King Estate Acrobat Pinot Gris $13

When you think of Oregon Pinot, you may think Pinot Noir, but this Pinot Gris is great with food and a refresher.

Charles Smith Riesling, Columbia Valley Kung Fu Girl $13

Staying north Washington this time, Charles Smith makes a defining Riesling. Yum. And a great label. No. 51 on last year’s Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines.

Kendall-Jackson Avant Chardonnay $13

A value in great California Chardonnay from the Central Coast.

Guigal Cote Du Rhone Blanc $14

A great producer from the Northern Rhone, this Viognier-based wine is a great intro to wines of the region.

Albarino Martin Codax $13

You’ve tried the White Can, now go to Spain and try Albarino from where it lives.

Occasionally an idea will come over the transom for a column that is both compelling and perplexing. Such was the case recently when the Aspen Times Weekly “millennial” columnist Barbara Platts suggested a story on the “Oldest Wines in Aspen.”

First of all, I thought it was ironic that the person who writes of the young was interested in the old. Flattered initially, I soon realized her interest was in aged wines, collectible wines, the kind of wines with expensive price tags. That is, of course, so Aspen. And as such, it is a great idea for a story.

But as the kind of guy who uses phrases like “over the transom” and has an AOL account (that should give you a pretty good idea that I am, um, of a certain age), I got to thinking about the differences between generations of wine drinkers and how they look at wine. Barbara suggested that “the oldest bottle” story would be more interesting than a story on “what my generation cares about, which is currently whatever wine is cheapest :).”

While I acknowledge that price is a significant component in how millennials make their wine buying decisions, I respectfully disagree that it is the bottom line for most emerging wine drinkers. I’ll get to the oldest bottles story one day, but for now let’s take a look at millennials and their wine drinking habits.

According to a story in the Washington Post, there are about 39 million Americans who drink wine “several” times a week. Of this group, about a third could be considered part of the millennial generation, which can be roughly defined as those born between 1980 and 2000. There are about 75 million of these folks and they are the future, not just of the country but the wine market as well.

As this group comes of age, they bring a very different dynamic to an industry that has long been dominated by consumers who have been trained to follow traditional marketing pathways. Over the past 30 or so years, wines have been sold via ratings, massive magazine advertising campaigns and PR flacks who have created the aura of success, achievement and exclusivity around specific wines. If Parker rated it highly, if it was expensive and if it was hard to find, then baby boomers wanted it. No matter what the grape was or if it was the right wine for the right time.

But millennial are less influenced by the trappings and images of wealth and prestige when making their wine purchasing decisions. This is a much more casual generation and they are less likely to follow pack mentality when it comes to choosing their wines. It is no longer who has the most expensive bottle or the one with the highest score that is desirable, but rather it is who has the coolest wine. And the coolest wine may be the bottle that costs $15, or even less.

What defines “cool” is the $35 billion question. That is the approximate retail value of the U.S. wine market in sales terms currently and it has grown for 20 straight years. Whether it continues to grow depends upon winemakers tapping into the zeitgeist of a generation that is more fragmented and in some ways more sophisticated than those wine drinkers that came before.

The wine drinkers of today are totally wired. They are the first generation to not need to wait for the pundits to rate wines or to read about them in magazines. Instead they get their recommendations from friends, via social network sites and online forums. They are interested in who made the wines, where the vineyards are and what is the mind-set of the winery. Organics and biodynamic wines resonate. Young makers with attitude and character contribute and, of course, a good label design and name can be a closer.

And then there is price. A splurge on a bottle at retail may be $20 but the sweet spot of the new generation tops out at around $15. This is a generation that buys to drink, not necessarily to hold. These are generalizations of course, but research is indicating that if you want to sell wine to millennials, make it fun, have a story to tell and make it affordable.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at

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